CILIP launches data project to 'turn tide' on library closures

CILIP launches data project to 'turn tide' on library closures

A partnership between CILIP and an American firm using data to mobilise movements against public library closures could “turn the tide” for the struggling service, it is claimed.

CILIP has teamed up with the EveryLibrary Institute to launch Libraries Deliver, a project to bring existing campaigns together, expand their support and create a database of supporters that can be accessed at any moment.

The organisation has been given £150,000 funding across two years from the Arts Council for its project, which now has a website built on the NationBuilder platform for political campaigning, and to also boost skills for librarians to run campaigns.

CILIP c.e.o. Nick Poole explained the idea was born out of discussions over how to build their lobbying effort in the face of cuts to council funding that have led to facilities being closed or handed to volunteers. With Brexit looming, CILIP is concerned more deep cuts are on the way.

He told The Bookseller: “A lot of out campaigning has struggled to cut through against public sector austerity. We were looking for a new more effective approach for advocating for public libraries.”

In the US, EveryLibrary has succeeded in securing $1.7bn in tax funding for libraries by building advocacy movements.

Poole said the group provided a “simple but powerful” insight that many more people support public libraries than actually use them. By helping to develop a database of library supporters and finding ways to target them and harness that support, a powerful tool could be developed in the fight to keep them open.

With Everyman’s help, 10,500 people are on the database already and the intention is to grow that number to up to 35,000 in the first year. A lot of the support comes through Facebook, where people share Libraries Deliver content and the numbers build.

“We’ve never had this approach before,” said Poole. “We think this is going to be more and more powerful.”

He went on: “The EveryLibrary Institute team bring a wealth of insight into effective campaigning, plus real data-science and analytics expertise which is allowing us, the first time, to harness public support properly through social media.”

In situations where a council announces it is consulting on closing libraries, as has happened in many local authorities over recent years, Poole said the project would be a huge benefit. He explained: The first thing we’d do is  flash an alert around the whole database saying the consultation is underway. Then we’d work with a local group to a run a campaign and forge a database of local supporters.”

The technology would allow supporters to be targeted right down to street level, in a similar way to how political campaigns are now run. He said: “Given we’ve been fighting hard on public libraries with mixed success I really think this is the start of something quite important in terms of trying to turn the tide on closures.”

In the US, one of EveryLibrary’s most recently successes was stopping a library closure in Baldwin County, Georgia.

Founder John Chrastka explained: “While technical mechanisms for the funding the library is particular to the US, the approach we took to supporting the library's funding needs, coordinating closely with the local campaigners and head of service, and reaching out directly to the public to ask them to contact their council with their concerns is highly replicable as Libraries Deliver continues to grow.

“It's important to us that we work one-on-one with the local library stakeholders and it is critical to our success for us to amplify what the local legitimate agenda is for the library. When we root our outreach and advocacy in those principals here and across England, the public responds and helps affect positive and long-term changes for their library.”