Blogger Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee

Connecting with Library Voters During COVID-19

In an attempt to find out more information and how I could make a positive impact, I attended the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference (LAFCON), hosted by EveryLibrary. LAFCON was extended from September 14 – 16, to the entire week, and there were still too many interesting presentations to take them all in. What made this conference unique was that all the presenters were from outside organizations. Their unique perspectives help frame advocacy in a larger context and deepen my understanding. Let me share some of my favorite take-aways from LAFCON.

They Like Us, They Really Do! 

Source: EveryLibrary. Accessed 9/22/2020.

Patrick Sweeney is the Political Director at EveryLibrary. His presentation on surfacing, which is a strategy for raising awareness for a cause long before the vote, was compelling and eye-opening. Political party doesn’t matter. Card statistics don’t matter. Library use doesn’t matter. What matters is voter relationships to “their librarians.” Sweeney shared how to build relational support by identifying, cultivating and empowering super supporters. First, take a moment to self-reflect on why you work in the library. What are you passionate about? What does your library do better than anyone else in the community? What could your library be doing better (a.k.a. how will you use additional funding)? Answering these questions helps develop your narrative. Your story establishes a trusted connection, in which support can be built. Surfacing is all about establishing precedence and building that strong narrative before the opposition’s narrative takes hold. 

If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words, What is a Video Worth?

Source: StoryVine. Accessed 9/22/2020

Kyle Shannon is the Founder and CEO of Storyvine, an automated video creation platform, presented on using video storytelling to get political. StoryVine is one amazing tool for building your narrative. Before downloading the StoryVine app and capturing a bunch of stories, we should be asking:

  • What is it your library is trying to accomplish?
  • If storytelling were to support that, what types of stories would support the goal?
  • Who are the people who would share those stories and why would they share them?
  • Who are the people who would watch those stories and why would that make a difference?

Shannon had the following wisdom to share about storytelling. 

“Storytelling is everything. Apathy is driven by a lack of emotional connection to the mission of that org. Even the most cynical, resigned person can be driven to action if they connect with a story that feels relevant to them… that story isn’t likely the story of the org itself, but rather the story of a person impacted by that org. The story represents social proof that the mission of the org is being fulfilled. The implications of that, though, are that the more people you want to reach and have that emotional impact with, the more stories you need to tell. A story that moves me to tears, might not interest you in the slightest.”


Allison Ehrich Bernstein, Allative Communications, presented on what makes messaging effective in times of crisis. The audience is asking, “What’s in it for me?” Messaging should take you somewhere, with intent toward your goals. Good messages get down to three key components: audience, medium and framing. Especially now, our messages need to start with a place of directness and engage with the cause. Attention spans are shorter than ever and in the time of Zoom and YouTube, once they click away, they are not-likely coming back. Anything longer than a Ted Talk (about 18 min.) is too long. Also, audiences remember how you made them feel more than anything else. In messaging, we want everyone in the audience to have the same take-aways. Start with compelling, impactful elements for maximum engagement. Frame your message around your library’s mission and the problem you are addressing. Finally, think about human impact and let that guide you. 

Are you ready?

Think about your story and start sharing it! Getting out and connecting with library supporters is not as easy as manning an outreach table in the time of Coronavirus. Get creative in how you share your message by creating videos or hosting a Facebook Live Q&A session. We’d love to hear what new messaging techniques have worked well for your library. 

Addresses the ALSC competencies of V. Outreach and Advocacy and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development. 

Jackie Cassidy is a member of the ALSC Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee. She is a Senior Assistant Manager at Harford County Public Library in Maryland and her favorite time of year is Fall.

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