Spice up your PR with a dash of data

by Judy Hoffman
“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” This oft-used quote, tentatively attributed to W. Edwards Deming, could easily be adapted to library PR/marketing/advocacy efforts. As just one of hundreds or thousands of Illinois entities chasing the few remaining reporters for press coverage, or pursuing public and private funding in this Era of Austerity, data (aka statistics) can help drive you to the front of the pack.

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The combination of national and state statistics, with your library’s statistics, and real-life examples provide the basis for truly powerful stories. Local and state libraries across the nation have utilized national and state data from the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study to help craft their messages. The study, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Library Association, is a “state of the library” report on technology resources and the funding that enables free public access to these resources.

The study data gathered from 7,250 U.S. public libraries provides a diverse offering to choose from to incorporate into your library’s PR. For example:

  • E-books are offered by 76 percent of libraries, and nearly 40 percent provide e-readers for checkout.
  • More than 90 percent of libraries offer formal or informal technology training and 36 percent report increased use of their training over the past year.
  • Nationally, 62 percent of libraries report that they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities. In rural communities, this increases to 70 percent

What about your community? The 62 percent free access statistic is one that many libraries have utilized for their local PR. Most people are unaware that 35 percent of Americans (over 100 million) do not have high-speed Internet access at home. That statistic from Pew Internet & American Life, partnered with the free access data point is a powerful statement. Combine that with a story of one of your patrons that depends on the library computers for homework, or for applying for a job, and you will increase your impact.

The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study has a number of resources to help libraries incorporate a dash (or maybe closer to a tablespoon) of data to their PR, marketing and advocacy, including press release and op-ed templates (local and state focus), issues briefs and selected Illinois statistics and fact sheets. There is also an infographic, “U.S. Public Libraries Weather the Storm” (full and sections) that you might find helpful in telling your library’s story.

Feel free to contact me (Judy Hoffman) with any questions about the study resources at jhoffman@ala.org or 312.280.4291.

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