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Make Sure Your Stakeholders Know: Libraries Drive Digital Inclusion

by Judy Hoffman, judyhoffman99@gmail.com. Judy has been fully engaged in the library world since 1998, serving as marketing communications specialist for a regional library system, project manager for the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (www.ala.org/plinternetfunding), and currently as communications consultant for the Digital Inclusion Survey (www.ala.org/digitalinclusion). Current book in hand: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. on October 11, 2013

The Spice Girls said it best: “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” And with that in mind (probably minus the dance moves), the Digital Inclusion Survey was developed so that public libraries can tell stakeholders what they really, really want to know about how libraries help build digitally inclusive communities.

The Digital Inclusion Survey will generate unique data that will illustrate the essential role libraries play in digital literacy, economic and workforce development, health and wellness, civic engagement, and e-government. The survey findings will highlight what stakeholders not only want to know but need to know: the unique attributes of library services for community well-being, and what libraries provide that few other community-based entities can provide.

The survey is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and conducted by the American Library Association and the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland College Park, in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Yes – the ICMA – the membership organization of the external stakeholders all libraries want to reach. That should further illustrate how important digital inclusion is to policy makers today.

As part of a recent invitational seminar for public library researchers[i], library leaders and library funding authority representatives were interviewed to find out what type of data-based information external stakeholders found compelling, and what libraries were finding the most effective for advocacy. A few of the key findings include:

·         “Access to information” is not an issue that resonates with most policy makers. They respond to information about how help improve healthcare, the economy, unemployment, and education.

·         Library leaders recognize the power of combining national statistics, local statistics, and anecdotal evidence of individual successes for telling the most meaningful story about the library’s value.

·         Stakeholders at the local, state, and national levels value data that is current, and prefer not to receive data that may be seen as past its “shelf-life.”

By participating in the Digital Inclusion Survey, libraries will be able to meet all of the aforementioned expectations, and more. Participation in the survey will allow your library to:

 ·         Get a better sense of your community’s needs, challenges, and opportunities through interactive tools and how your library’s services add value to your community.

·         Communicate with decision makers about the value of your library’s technology-enabled services and public access technologies.

·         Identify where your library’s services and resources are meeting community needs and where there might be room for improvement or a need for new partners to extend the library’s reach.

You have until November 15, 2013 to complete the survey and start telling your stakeholders what they really, really want (and need, to know).

[i] Convened at the American Library Association, May 16-17, 2013. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.