I’d like you to meet my parents. This is my current favorite picture of them; it was taken during their formal night out on a vacation cruise. With all of the advocacy meetings and talk I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about them. For me, they represent the two tiers of library supporters that are needed in order to preserve (or possibly even expand) library funding in the future. Allow me to elaborate.
This is my mother Ann. She is a regular patron of the Cherry Hill Public Library. On any given week, she is borrowing books, movies, and television series. When I was growing up, she would take my brother and I to the library to borrow books and movies. In hearing about the cuts to library funding in New Jersey, it has inspired her to write a letter to the editor that she is going to send to the local papers. To my knowledge, she has never done anything like this before. I was so proud of her when she read me her rough draft; I certainly hope they publish it.
This is my father Bill. Unlike my mother, he is not a regular library user. This is not to say that he would not use a library, but it’s not a regular deal. However, he is also a library supporter. He sees the value in the services provided as a community good; he understands the importance of information access. With a background in finance, my father is also appreciative of the positive rate of return for taxpayer money invested in library services and materials. I know I can count on his support not simply because he is my father, but that he is informed as to what the library does for the community that I serve.
I’ve been thinking of my parents as they represent the two important types of library supporters: overt and latent. In practical terms, my mother is the person that libraries have coming through their doors everyday. They would be the low hanging fruit of advocacy since they already understand what the library has to offer. It’s not a giant step to connect them to our funding cause and encourage them to take action.
The library supporters like my father, on the other hand, present a different question. How do libraries reach the people in the community who support the library on ideological grounds yet never grace our doorsteps? While I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can educate my father about the value of the library, there are many others out there like him who do not have an advocate for a wife, son, and daughter-in-law.
So, here’s the question: how do we reach people like my dad?