In November 2012, the Broadview Public Library District passed a 4.1 million dollar building referendum with an overwhelming 81% majority. When we went back and analyzed the campaign the real success story was our door-to-door campaign. Door-to-door is a technique often used in political campaigns but one that we rarely see in libraries. It is something that I have become passionate about and have promoted to libraries who are preparing for a referendum, through an organization called EveryLibrary. EveryLibrary is a social welfare organization chartered to work exclusively on, and assist in, local library ballot initiatives. I serve as campaign advisor, helping to focus and refine information-only campaigns in libraries. When I talk to librarians about doing a door-to-door campaign they often feel overwhelmed by the prospect. Our door-to-door campaign was not only easy, but fun and educational as well. I have broken it down for you in 5 easy steps so that you too may plan and implement a successful door-to-door campaign.
Step 1: Decide what you want to accomplish
Our door-to-door campaign was informational and our goal was to educate residents so that they could make an informed choice at the polls. You don’t have something on the ballot you say? That’s okay, door-to-door does not have to be limited to ballot measures and works great for surveys, library card sign-up month or community-wide initiatives, as well. We found that when we were going door-to-door we were able to pull in non-library users and answer their questions about the library. We would hear things like “I don’t go to that library because they don’t have computers for my kids.” And they were great opportunities to educate our residents about what “that library” does in fact have to offer. Pick a goal and design everything else around it.
Step 2: Write your script and design your materials
Now that you have decided what you want to do, these things will fall right into place. You will need a script for your walkers. You want to keep your time at each door short, as a courtesy to the resident, and also so that you can cover more ground. In our case, we had a flyer with additional information to handout and to leave at the doors where no one answered. This flyer should be eye-catching enough that it will get picked up by those you missed. It should be simple and informative, and offer opportunities and incentives for the residents to seek further information. We pointed residents to our website and also offered contact information. Our website showed a noticeable increase in traffic on the nights we had gone door-to-door, as well as following day.
Step 3: Find your walkers
You do not need a million people to go door-to-door. With three dedicated walkers and two auxiliary walkers, we covered about half of our residents, 1,500 households, in one month. The Library staff and board both represent the library and are great to build that trust, but there are other stakeholders who would be good as well. Take an inventory of key stakeholders and library supporters in the community and see if any of them would be good candidates to walk with. Find people who are comfortable with others and can stick to the message. It is surprisingly easy to talk about library services when you care about them.
Step 4: Plan your route
Let’s face it, you are not going to hit every house. Think of areas where your project it is most needed. Those with fewer library users and a high density of residents should be a priority. Find a way to put out the information for those you may miss. Include it on your website, in your building and other community gathering places.
Step 5: Get outside of the building
With the long winter behind us, now is the time to get outside of the building and meet our residents at their doorstep. We walked every Thursday from 3-6 pm and carried library bags so that we were visible and identifiable. We were always courteous about people’s property and walked in numbers so that we were safe.
In summary, I have presented five simple, straight-forward steps that will go along was toward ensuring optimal results when striving to pass a library referendum.
Melissa Gardner is the Executive Director of the Broadview Public Library District.