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365 Public Awareness Campaign
Innovation SummaryIn July 2010 the Library's budget was cut 15.3% after a 4.6% rescission. The new director wanted to be seen as a team player, but the possibility of another budget cut caused her to take action. That action would result in the Alexandria Library: 365 Public Awareness Campaign.
The 2000 Census declared Zip Code 22304 the most diverse zip code in the country. Located across the river from Washington, D.C., Alexandria is dependent on the economic health of the federal government. Like most jurisdictions, the economic downturn caught Alexandria by surprise. In September 2009, we were informed that we would have to give back 4.6% of our current budget. Beginning July 2010, the Library took a 15.3% budget cut, the equivalent of a 1.1 million dollar reduction. This resulted in the loss of contractual services for security guards and cleaning at all facilities, a materials cut, reduced hours in Special Collections, and elimination of Sunday hours at the Barrett Library. And yet, another budget cut in 2011 was a possibility. Based on these events, the Library Director called a meeting of her Administrative Staff to discuss a proactive strategy where the budget was concerned. In August 2010, a brainstorming session consisting of the Director, Deputy Director, Communications Officer, and Division Chief of Administrative Services focused on keeping the momentum of community support after the last budget cut. Using the Library’s Five Year Plan and the results of the 2009 Patron Satisfaction Survey, we decided for highest impact that we should concentrate on several selected areas: library collections, staff, and facilities. Strategically, we decided on the following goals and objectives: increase visibility and value of services and programs; raise funds to meet the demands for e-materials through nontraditional means; enhance the Alexandria Library Foundation; achieve results on Five Year Plan within selected areas of concentration (i.e. library collections, staff, and facilities). Since the list was so varied, we determined that any initiative would need to take place over the course of a year. The 365 Public Awareness Campaign began.
Participants included library staff, library board members, library Friends groups, the City of Alexandria, Alexandria Library Company, Alexandria City Public Schools, the James M. Duncan, Jr. Library Foundation, and local businesses. National Library Card Sign Up month was kicked off with READ posters featuring library board members and children of library staff, placed at each branch. Since Alexandrians are adamant animal lovers, READ posters of staff pets were placed at city dog parks and the animal shelter. Based on cuts to the materials budget, the committee decided to raise money for library materials with a new approach – publicize National Foundation Month in November by placing a flier in the local paper to reach 15,000 readers. Based on the 2009 Patron Satisfaction Survey, library users rated the cleanliness of its facilities at 90%. To ensure a comparable rating in the 2011 survey, Administration contacted community partners (Joblink and National Council on Aging) to add to our custodial team. In December 2010, three volunteers were added. In January 2011, the library placed a Thank You in the local paper to show appreciation for the donations received. The Library highlighted the Foundation, including the new “I READ… therefore I GIVE” tagline, on overdue and holds notification emails, and due date receipts given at checkout. In March 2011, the library director provided her annual update to the Alexandria Library Company, the organization that started the library in 1794, at their annual lecture. This year, she made a financial plea to the attendees. READ posters of the Company members on the Library Board were displayed and new Foundation brochures were distributed at the event. All Alexandria Reads, the library's signature community read program, increased its sponsorship so the library would not have to absorb any of the costs.
The Alexandria Library: 365 Public Awareness Campaign was a success. All goals were met as well as other positive outcomes. Additionally, the approved budget for the upcoming year was increased by 3.1%. All City Council members have agreed to be featured on a READ poster. The posters also highlighted our youth services and many comments forwarded to council concerning the library’s budget were based on how the cuts would affect our services to children. Funds were raised to meet the demands for e-materials: the Foundation Appeal flyer was hugely successful as the library received almost $24,000 from November 8- December 31 and the appeal made at the annual Alexandria Company Lecture generated $3500. The Alexandria Library Foundation was revitalized with a new logo, the Webpage was updated, a new Foundation brochure was produced and awareness increased. Collection outcomes for the Library’s Five Year Plan included an increase in our materials collection budget by $17,000. The READ posters improved morale of the staff at a time when they now had to do more with less. More than 12 children and teens were featured, 2 dogs, and all Library Board members. The Library Foundation Board also approved a request to increase the training funds for staff. The library gained three more custodial volunteers and the 2011 Patron Satisfaction survey showed 80.7% facility cleanliness satisfaction, which was above our projection. In addition, volunteers from the National Council of Aging also provided other volunteers who were able to function as library pages. The momentum continues with our now annual Alexandria Library: 365 Public Awareness Campaign.