At that advocacy training I discussed in my last post, we also covered local government spending.
The speaker pointed out that when voters show up at local government meetings or contact their legislators, it really does influence elected officials. They’d rather see your patrons than you. They know you have a vested interest, but if lots of people turn up to support a new program you’re proposing, it’s easier for them to justify funding you.
Remember too that you need high profile people for your board – their connections will prove invaluable when you need to influence others in your community. They can rally the troops to write to the mayor or have a quiet word with the town manager highlighting how your new service will benefit the area.
Think outside the box when making your case to legislators and residents. Safety is a huge priority – we know how often police and fire budgets are increased while libraries must tighten their belts. So to free up dollars, make the connection between the 85% illiteracy rate in the juvenile justice system and your “ready to read” program. We also provide a fairly safe place for kids to go after school (which keeps them from destructive behavior because they’re bored).
Certainly the educational opportunities that the library provides have an impact on the crime rate. Stories engage your listeners, so tell some about at-risk patrons that are now productive tax-paying citizens because of library services. And surely the city budget committee will be impressed that the library helps businesses start, grow and thrive. Their additional tax revenues are certainly welcome, as are the jobs they create.
Remind your governments that we’re not just about books – we have the same objective they do – to improve our communities. Telling stories that illustrate this will help them remember that.