In a 2008 report, the Online Computer Library Center categorized library financial supporters as follows:
- Super Supporters: the most likely regular voters to be committed to vote yes for a library referendum, ballot initiative or bond measure. These people represent the core of the libraries’ current support base. (7.1%)
- Probable Supporters: regular voters who overall favor supporting the libraries financially. This group has the potential to be persuaded to increase their commitment to voting favorably for a library referendum, bond measure or ballot initiative. (32.3%)
- Barriers to Support: People who say they vote in primary, presidential and local elections but have significant barriers to supporting the library financially. They are the least likely of the voting respondents to vote in favor of a library referendum. (34.0%).
- Chronic Non Voters: People who are either not registered to vote or are registered but do not vote in primary elections, presidential elections or local elections. The people in this segment say that they are unlikely to be motivated to vote in the future. (26.6%)
How well do these groups reflect your constituency?
Source = From Awareness to Funding, OCLC 2008. n=8000.
A recent article in USA Today briefly describes the funding challenge faced by communities all across America. The article closes with a quote from Chris Hoene, director of policy and research at the National League of Cities, as follows: “As people lose income or curb spending, income tax and sales tax revenue falls. Local officials must choose between core services, such as police and fire protection, and services such as libraries and parks.”
I don’t accept this dichotomy; libraries are core services. It’s like saying that in tough times we’re going to build all our new homes with kitchens and bathrooms only. Are these places you’d like to live? And would these homes increase or decrease the value of surrounding properties?
Even in fiscal hard times, we’re a richer nation than that. Community by community, let’s strive to preserve more than a minimum level of security against assault or fire.
P.S. The 88 reader comments posted on the USA Today article are as interesting as the article itself.
Even at the end of my year-long volunteer tenure, there were many people I was unable to help from the front desk. Of those, roughly 50% asked straightforward questions and I simply did not have the specific knowledge to help them.
Adult Patron1: Do you have the latest book by [insert popular author name here]?
Me: Do you know the name of the book?
Adult Patron1: No, but I heard one just came out.
Me: We have five books by the author, is this (the most recent) the one you’re looking for?
Adult Patron1: I don’t know. Is it the one that just came out?
Teen Patron: We have to do a book report on NASA.
Adult Patron2: I’m interested in geneology, how would I get started?
In these cases I would hail a staff member and reiterate the patron’s question, hopeful that a competent hand-off would help mitigate the delay in delivering the requested service.
A number of patrons approached the desk with an interest or need they could not clearly articulate. Initially I tried to ask clarifying questions and invariably wasted the patron’s time and my own. Soon enough I came to recognize these moments and would silently hail a staff member who would casually walk over and ask “How can I help you?” The staff was usually able to interpret the inquiry and direct the person to resources in just a few moments.
My sense is that fielding these questions was beyond the reach of a volunteer, for it was the staffs’ skill, training and experience—perhaps combined with a bit of special knowledge (awareness of school assignments, job openings in town, policies/events at surrounding libraries) that made them so good at providing this service.