Making the Most of Your Legislative Meet-Up

First of all, thank you for going to an ILA Legislative Meet-up! I know from experience that it was an informative and rewarding use of your, your staff’s, and your trustees’ time. The Legislative Meet-ups are a coordinated effort between ILA, the ILA Advocacy Committee, and regional libraries. There are now eight across the state. The most established Legislative Breakfast in Buffalo Grove is celebrating its 28th year, while the newest, in Galesburg, is celebrating its first!

Whether you are a first time attendee or have been attending for many years, there are ways you can make the most of the experience:

  • Share your stories. What impact does your library make in your community? What impact would prospective legislation have on your ability to serve your community? Give your legislators examples of the ways you benefit your population.
  • Invite your Trustees and prepare them to be advocates. Legislators realize that as librarians we have a professional and personal stake in legislation affecting libraries. Trustees, as volunteers, can communicate the library’s value without a perception of bias.
  • Invite staff. Advocacy isn’t just for management. If you are able to spare staff, register them too! Each staff member brings a unique perspective. Youth Services staff are great advocates who deal directly with families using the library. Technical Services staff understand the impact legislation has on access to materials and technology.

Legislators benefit from the meet-ups as well. Watch this video by Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs Celeste Choate and Denise Raleigh to hear Illinois State Senators Pat McGuire and Scott M. Bennett discuss the importance of these meet-ups.

Ways to stay connected after the Meet-up:

  • Follow up with your representatives and thank them for attending. While they will already be receiving thank yous from the Meet-up coordinators, that extra acknowledgment of appreciation can go a long way! Didn’t have an opportunity to share a great story or photo with your legislator? Now’s your chance!
  • Join the Legislative Action Network – Sign up here. You will only be notified when it is time to contact your representative to take action on a specific piece of library-related legislation.
  • Keep abreast with developing legislation. The ILA website is an excellent source of information and resources regarding advocacy. The ILA Legislative Issues page contains current information to help you stay informed.
  • Volunteer! Submit your name to volunteer for the ILA Advocacy Committee. The Legislative Meet-up Coordinators always welcome extra help, too. Helping with a Legislative Meet-up often means making phone calls to regional libraries and representatives. The Advocacy Committee can help connect you with your region’s Coordinator.
  • by Kate KiteMSLIS, Research and Instruction Librarian, Teen Services,Six Mile Regional Library District–Johnson Road



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Taking Care of Business: Advocacy at the Local Level

By John Keister, Owner, John Keister & Associates Executive Search

Many of us advocate for additional library funds, for or against a legislative bill, and for general support of our libraries. We hold a Legislative Breakfast and other events where we can bend the ear of our legislators. Within our communities, we reach out to library users, develop groups such as the Friends, and generally do an effective job of getting out our message: libraries have been and continue to be one of the most valuable community assets. However, how many of us have made a serious effort to reach out and expand our constituency to include our local business community?

Why is the business community so important?

In addition to the possibilities of financial support for our local libraries, our state and federal legislators listen to business leaders. The library helps a business and then the business tell the legislator about the value of public libraries. That is advocacy in action. As for funding, the State of Illinois has an economic “pie” that appears of limited size, and libraries have to compete every year just to get a fair slice. It seems to me that we need to increase the size of the pie if we want a larger slice. Growing an economy generally means growing businesses. What organization is ideally positioned to help foster business growth? That’s right—our local public libraries!

How do libraries benefit local businesses?

Our libraries hold almost unlimited access to information and tools needed for business incubation and growth. Through interlibrary loan, businesses can access almost any print material anywhere. Then there are the incredible and valuable electronic resources and databases. Let’s not forget that ultimate better-than-Google search engine—the local librarian. Wow! You get all this for the cost of a library card.

I am a library advocate but I am also a business owner. When starting my executive search practice 31 years ago, I made extensive use of the resources provided by my local public library. The library became, in a sense, my partner. I was so impressed with my library that I ran for the board and served for many years as a trustee. That’s what led to my passion for library advocacy. So, to doubters, take heed: I am one example of how helping a business get off the ground can lead to gaining a new library advocate.

So why do so few of our large and small businesses know about the wealth of service our libraries provide?

Perhaps a story will help. I was the invited speaker at an industry meeting of software technology leaders. Naturally, I discussed libraries with several attendees before and after the meeting. One attendee in particular, Beth, founded a project management consultancy. She resides in the northwest suburbs and makes good use of her local public library. Here are a few of her comments about her library: it is a “great value,” a “fabulous facility,” and “if you’re looking for good information, the best is what you find in a book.” Beth conducts research on the Internet, but visits the library for materials and electronic resources. She also makes significant use of interlibrary loan. The library, with books on starting a business, writing a business plan, and marketing, helped Beth launch her business. She is the exception, however. Beth thinks that the general business perception of the library is “that it is for children and families.” What would she change? She encourages much faster interlibrary loan (next day delivery), an e-newsletter geared toward business, and the publicizing of business resources and services.

Businesses are an “untapped market” for libraries. We should develop effective strategies to reach out to, inform, and learn to better serve the business community. Think of library advocacy as a triangle with three vertices: community (residents), government (legislators, local trustees), and business (industry and commerce). Going forward, let us bring more businesses into our library tent.

About the Author

John Keister is a lifelong library advocate and resides in Vernon Hills. He is the owner of executive search firm John Keister & Associates. John currently serves on the Illinois Library Association Advocacy Committee.


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Library Advocacy Lessons from National Legislative Day

Note:  We know the positive impact that Illinois libraries have in this state.  Please visit this blog regularly as we post more about sharing these positive impacts in a meaningful way.  Thank you to the Marketing Forum for enabling us to use this space.


Illinois delegation meeting with Senator Tammy Duckworth’s staff

In May of 2017, 40 Illinois library supporters traveled to Washington, DC, for National Legislative Day on May 2. Necessities for this trip include comfortable walking shoes and effective deodorant. The legislative campus is huge and DC is still hot in May!

As many of you know, the Capital can be overwhelming. People from across the country are there for business and pleasure. End-of-the-year school field trips bring in busloads of students and teachers. And everybody is on their way to a meeting, monument, or office building. When you strip away the imposingness of Washington, DC and think about why you are there, advocacy remains the same— wherever it takes place. It is all about making person-to-person connections.

With federal funding for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) not included in the first budget, it was wonderful to see the overflow crowd for National Legislative Day. The first day is normally comprised of education about the issues followed by a day of advocacy in legislators’ offices. There were so many attendees this year that the Illinois


Illinois delegaion in the overflow room

delegation had to move to the overflow room for the opening session.

From morning through afternoon, a number of experts provided insights to many of the issues such as support for LSTA funding, net neutrality, public access to government data, surveillance law reform, and support for high-speed broadband at every library. Participants learned about the Washington Post’s great slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

anldrocs20170501_154048For advocates, the 3:30 pm session by Brian Jones and Tina Pelkey of the Black Rock Group was particularly compelling for their simple advice on talking with legislators. They said that it starts with preparation by asking, “What is that legislator’s passion?” Jones and Pelkey explained that how you frame the issue is important. They indicated that you should use the legislator’s terms. Push your issues through their filters. They recommended that advocates not to get caught up in the “curse of knowledge” (“curse” needs explanation). They advised that people, “Take the time to economize the point.” Break-down complicated topics into a media narrative. Make it into a storytelling arc. Start with contextualizing the issue. This approach consists of observing these elements:

1. Why is it important to that legislator? Try framing it into something that the legislator values.
2. Explain the problem and suggest a solution.
3. Make sure you have done these things before presenting facts and figures.
4. Speak economically – remark, make an observation, conclude, stop.
5. Make sure that you conclude with, “This is what I would like you to take

Here is an illustration with a real world example.

anldsignBefore the trip to DC, the ILA Advocacy Committee collected stories from Illinois libraries that received recent LSTA funding. One success story came from the Aurora Public Library.

LSTA funds helped Aurora Public Library support World Relief Literacy programs for non-native English speakers like Maria Gutierrez. People who participated in these programs improved their communication and social skills and came to love the library and reading. In 2013, 30 percent of the adult refugees resettled in Aurora had no literacy skills in any language. Their children frequently begin kindergarten with little to no English language skills. This program has served to improve literacy for over 700 parents and children.

Let’s set-up a hypothetical with a legislator who is passionate about improving local education. With that in mind, one would talk about Maria in terms of newfound literacy skills helping students academically. One would suggest that the LSTA funded World Relief Literacy programs that helped Maria and her children could help others. One would emphasize that we want the legislator to take away from this meeting that LSTA funding is important to his/her constituents. Then, one would provide a written-copy of Maria’s story proving that LSTA funding increased the reading ability of his or her youngest constituents.

The Advocacy Committee thanks the Aurora Public Library for sharing a powerful example about how libraries impact communities. We would like to continue to collect these types of stories from Illinois’ libraries. Please send them to Co-Chairs Denise Raleigh  at and Celeste Choate at Thank you.  by Jim Deiters and Denise Raleigh, 16-17 Advocacy Co-Chairs



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Space Planning: Elmhurst’s Experience

by Mary Beth Harper, Director, Elmhurst Public Library

One of my favorite things to do is walk around the Library and see how people are using it.  On any given day, I’ll see the obvious: reading, studying, working, and browsing.  But what I’m also seeing regularly are people having meetings, either formally (in meeting and study rooms) or informally (sitting in the café and using the Kids’ area to meet with other moms while kids play nearby).  There are also people who meet for a weekly game of chess or dominos.  Then there are the creative groups who knit together or quilt.  It’s very inspiring to see all the different ways patrons use and embrace their library.

This brings us to the issue of space planning and meeting the ever-changing needs of our patrons.  Elmhurst Public Library renovated the Adult Services Department about a year and a half ago.  There were several issues that we were attempting to solve by reconfiguring. Those issues included:  providing patrons with more study rooms or small group meeting rooms to meet increasing demand, giving the teens a separate space, increasing face-out shelving for a better browsing experience, and providing more seating for both work and relaxation.  We also felt it was important to add digital media labs because they are no longer novel spaces in libraries but have become the norm.  It was amazing to see how quickly patrons took to using the new spaces.  We thought we might be educating our patrons about digital media labs because media labs were truly the only “new” service that was added.  The other spaces were extensions of what we already had.  But alas, our patrons proved once again that they are agile and open to new and exciting services.  People are using the labs, on average, 120 times a month for a myriad of reasons.

The planning and construction phase of the renovation went fairly smoothly.  Like anything else in life, nothing is perfect but our staff and patrons adjusted well to dust, noise, and altered spaces.  Communication is key to keeping both groups informed.  Information helps reduce confusion while generating excitement.  Providing talking points and informational bookmarks for staff helped them to pass the good news on to patrons.  Being able to explain why we were doing what we were doing was very important.  When you can provide your patrons and staff with clear reasons as to why you are renovating, and talk about how the new spaces are going to benefit them, it’s hard for people to object.

I’m happy to say that the Adult Services Department renovation was a major success and we are moving on to other areas of the Library. We are currently installing a 3500 square foot makerspace in the basement.  This project has been the most thrilling of my career thus far.  Staff is so enthusiastic about this creative/crafting/tinkering space and patrons have been inquiring regularly as to the progress. Whenever I talk to someone about the makerspace their eyes light up and they get that “wow” look on their face.  Based on checkout statistics and program attendance, we know that our community is embracing the DIY movement and when we tell them that they will have access to expensive creative technology in a community space, they are thrilled.  The Makery is scheduled to open in springtime and we won’t have any trouble staffing the space.  It should be a fun place to work.  I also predict that our patrons are going to love the Makery.

For the children’s librarians reading this and asking, “What about the kids?”: Do not worry, we are working with architects right now on space planning for the Kids’ Department.  Again, because of changing usage patterns and increasing demand, we need to provide a larger play literacy area, a more dedicated middle school space, and more seating to accommodate all the kids and parents who regularly flood our Kids’ Library.  These are good problems to have and we are happy that we need to renovate because of usage.  Whoever says that libraries are a thing of the past, hasn’t visited the Elmhurst Public Library.  I’m sure the same is true at your library. Libraries continue to embrace change as it relates to the needs of their communities making them essential spaces in today’s world.

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Providing Services for Businesses

by Brock Peoples

Who are our patrons, and what are they doing in our libraries? It’s a common question to ask when initiating an environment scan, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), or other analysis. Answering it fully can go a long way towards informing planning processes and may produce a few surprises.

You may even be tempted to stop there and dive into planning around serving these (sometimes newly discovered) demographics. Stop for a moment. Examine your community as a whole. Who are they, and what are they doing?

Now, compare the two. If you’re the visual sort, make a Venn Diagram. It might look like this:


Intersection of Community and Users

Where the two groups overlap are your existing patrons who are in your community. Patrons that are not part of your community live in other service areas and happen to visit your library because … Why? (That’s another question you should look into, but not my current point.) People who are in your community and are not patrons are potential patrons, represent your predictable growth areas, and preset you with target demographics to market to.

Often, members of your local business community fall into this unserved category. They don’t come to story time, they don’t check out the newest Tom Clancy, and they probably don’t need your Internet connection to run their business (though some do). So, how do you serve them? What library services could the Antique Shop possibly want? The Drycleaner? The Bar?

Surprise! Business communities are often very open to continuing educational opportunities that will help make them more money. How do we, as libraries, fit in? Believe it or not, many small business owners are not as tech and marketing savvy as most librarians. Especially librarians who take the time to read a blog on marketing.

Programs that explain how to claim your business on Google, using social media for businesses, website creation and management, and data management are all good places to start. If you’re unsure, see what kinds of programs your local Chamber of Commerce hosts for its members; maybe even go to a few meetings and ask what people would like to see in the future.

There are many other directions you may wish to take your business services. Maybe you would like your library to serve as a Co-working location, maybe you want to become a start-up incubator, or maybe you want to loan out technology tools specifically for businesses. Find out what your community wants, where they are, and meet them there!

Attached is a presentation I gave to the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce at their February General Meeting, hosted by the Chillicothe Public Library. It is an introductory presentation on using social media for business promotion. Opinions are my own unless sources are given.

Facebook for businesses (PDF)

Brock Peoples is Director of Chillicothe Public Library District.

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Email Newsletters 101: Making the Most of Email

by Emily Glimco

Email newsletters are a simple yet important marketing tool for any library. Whether your library has experience with email newsletter or you’re just getting started, here are some basic tips to help you make the most of your library’s email newsletters.

Keep it Brief

As much as you may want to include a full two weeks of programming in your email newsletter, an email is not the place to do it. Our attention span is lower than ever, as this article suggests, which means to make the most of an email newsletter, you have to keep it skim-able.


One good rule to follow is to make the most important information the most obvious, such as the program title and the call to action (“Click here to learn more” ). Any other descriptions should be minimal but exciting.

Another thing to keep in mind is the number of features you have in your email newsletters. Prioritize your library’s upcoming programs (I know this can be tough!) and highlight the things you really want your community to know about.

Include Links

Looking at your newsletter’s open rate is important, but the best way to determine the effectiveness of your newsletter is to track what people are clicking. Think of it like this: if you send an email newsletter and 60% of your subscribers see your email, but you don’t provide them any links to find out more information about the programs you’re promoting, how can you really tell what interests your subscribers? All you can be sure of is that your email newsletter was opened, which doesn’t say much.

Any time you promote a library program or service in an email newsletter, there should be a link included so that people can register for the program or find out more details. By including links, you’ll be able to track the results and learn what your subscribers want to see. Additionally, including links to more information is a great way to cut down the amount of text you use, which will help keep your email newsletters short.

P.S.: Don’t get too hung up “low” numbers; industry standard email rates for nonprofits’ email newsletters is around a 25% open rate and a 3% click rate. You’ll be able to tell when your library’s newsletter numbers are low or high when you track opens and clicks consistently.

Split Test Your Newsletters

Split testing is are a great way to evaluate the effectiveness of your newsletters and determine what you can do to get your community engaged with your emails. If you want to boost your open rate, for example, give the A newsletter your standard subject line and try a new subject line with email B. By evaluating the percentage difference of the number of opens, you can see what works best.

No matter what you choose to test in your email newsletters, make sure you keep it simple; make sure you are only testing one aspect of your newsletter at a time. Then, run the test a number of times before you decide to make a permanent change.

Test on Mobile Devices


Are your email newsletters made with mobile devices in mind? According to a recent US Consumer Device Preference Report, 66% of emails were read on a mobile device.

While there are still a large number of people reading emails on their desktop computers, mobile users can’t be ignored. Some of your newsletter’s appearance will depend on the capabilities of your email newsletter provider (some have better responsive design templates than others; as you can see on the right, this Constant Contact email looks OK on a smartphone, but not perfect), but if you notice something simple to fix, like a too-small font size, go ahead and fix it before you hit the “schedule” button.

Email marketing is constantly evolving, so the conversation is far from over. Nonetheless, these basic tips should help give your library’s email newsletter the boost it needs to reach patrons effectively.

Emily Glimco is Marketing and Communications Associate at Northbrook Public Library.

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What better place to get gift suggestions?

Staff at Skokie Public Library came up with a last-minute idea to help people with last-minute holiday shopping, and the library launched GiftMatch earlier this week.

Skokie Public Library GiftMatch screenshot

“Fill out this short questionnaire and let us know a little about the person you’re shopping for.”

An extension of the library’s existing BookMatch readers’ advisory service, GiftMatch invites visitors to complete an online form with information about the intended gift recipient, and staff reply back with handpicked book and/or movie suggestions.

According to Readers Services Supervisor Kathy Sexton, the library publicized GiftMatch through an email blast, the library website, and social media (Twitter and Facebook).

Sexton said in the short time since the service was announced, the library has received several GiftMatch requests from cardholders, and got a glowing “Thank you!” from one user in response to the library’s suggestions.

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