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Look to Your Library…Especially Now

King County Library System
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Innovation Leader: Marsha Iverson, Public Relations Specialist, miverson@kcls.org

Problem Statement

Nearly 89,000 King County workers became unemployed between September 2008 and April 2009, reaching an 8% local unemployment rate. Our patrons were suffering financially and emotionally in their daily lives. We had information, training, job-search and business-based tools that would help them, but they were unaware of the resources available to them—at no charge—in and beyond the libraries. The global problem gave us a unique opportunity to showcase library resources that no amount of PR could generate interest in during ‘normal’ times. Our response to the economic crisis proved our value to the community in tangible ways.

Innovation

KCLS developed a comprehensive strategic communication campaign, bringing together all relevant resources and making it easy for even first-time library visitors to find what they needed. In addition to the customary tools of PR, marketing, and advertising, we developed a special section in the library’s Web site, temporary additional open hours, and demonstrations of job-related resources: computer skills classes, resume software, business and financial research databases, We gathered information on all relevant library and community resources for the unemployed, all job-search services and employment listings, small business resources, financial and emergency aid.

We presented the information in a visual icon with five key interest categories. Users simply clicked the icon for what they needed, and immediately saw a comprehensive list of library and community resources. We had anticipated users’ needs, gathered all the information available in the libraries and in community and government agencies, and linked all together in one convenient site.

Progress

The Look to Your Library project has been a powerful learning experience. Urgent circumstances and shared public and media awareness of economic hardships facing combined to create a ‘teachable moment’ to meet the growing need in a dramatic and appropriate way, by simply showcasing fundamental library and community resources and services when people needed them the most.
  • Total circulation for the LTYL week increased 4% over the same period in 2008
  • The turnover for related items averaged twice the rate for all other adult nonfiction
  • The turnover for LTYL subjects increased 89% during the outreach period over all of 2008.
  • Resume Builder use skyrocketed by 433%
  • Testing & Education Reference Center use increased 48% from April to May
  • WOIS/Career Information System use increased 30% from April to May