OCLC, which provides cataloging and technology-related services to libraries worldwide, just issued its latest research study, From Awareness to Funding. The whole report is over 200 pages long, so it will take me some time to read and digest it all. The report is particularly timely as PVLD and the Peninsula Friends of the Library wrestle with how best to proceed with raising the capital for our branch improvement program in light of rising construction costs and the economic climate.
The study identified eight important findings, most of which are as true for PVLD as they are for libraries as a whole:
1. Most people claim they would support the library at the ballot box - fewer are firmly committed to it.
2. There is a lot that people don't know about their public library.
3. Library support is only marginally related to visitation. Advocating for library support to library users focuses effort and energy on the wrong target group.
4. Perceptions of the librarian are highly related to support. "Passionate librarians" who are involved in the community make a difference.
5. The library occupies a very clear position in people's minds as a provider of practical answers and information. This is a very crowded space, and to remain relevant in today's information landscape, repositioning will be required.
6. Belief that the library is a transformational force in people's lives is directly related to their level of funding support.
7. Increasing support for libraries may not necessarily mean a trade-off of financial support for other public services.
8. Elected officials are supportive of the library - but not fully committed to increasing funding.
Some of this I already knew - for example that many of the biggest givers of financial support to the library are probably not library uses, and that (despite our PR and communications efforts) there is a lot that people don't know about their library.
The one that really caught my attention was the role that "passionate librarians" who are involved in the community play in garnering support for the library. This is something that I have long believed, but it was nice to see it validated by the research.
I see that one of the big challenges for PVLD is to truly engage our "passionate librarians" (we certainly have those!) and all of our employees as advocates and promoters of PVLD not just within the four walls of the library but out in the communities we serve. We've made progress in this area, but there is still a way to go!