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- More from Sarah Long
Something pretty wonderful happened on Jan. 20. The Illinois library community started an e-mail message campaign and it went viral and it worked!
Here's how it happened. The Illinois Regional Library Systems have not received allocated state monies and were at the breaking point. Without the systems, a lot of the infrastructure that keeps libraries going would be lost. The bad economy has driven users into libraries in record numbers and the disrupted connections between libraries would impact the public very quickly.
Librarians are tech savvy. They use social networking features every day, and no library operates without lots of computers and software and databases, etc. So an e-mail campaign was launched on January 20 via a Web site, saveillinoislibraries.com. It targeted the comptroller and the governor. The needed monies had been allocated by the general assembly, but had not been paid. The comptroller is the gatekeeper and the governor has influence. The effort already had a Facebook page at facebook.com/SaveILLibraries, and all were encouraged to become fans.
The e-mail campaign went live shortly after midnight on Jan. 20. By 11 a.m., 3,000 people had sent e-mails, and at 4 p.m. that number was up to 6,000. The number of Facebook fans jumped from 1,700 to over 4,000, and the campaign was all over Twitter.
About 2 p.m., a staffer at the Alliance Library System in East Peoria called the comptroller's office and learned that a check had just been released. The other eight systems made calls and got the same good news.
By the next day, 10,000 people had sent out over 20,000 e-mails, and something else remarkable was noted. Staff members at Regional Library Systems were getting testimonials. Here's one that came to me:
"Before coming to my current position, my professional experience was in working as a team member in large library systems. I showed up on the first day as a solo librarian and realized how much I didn't have a clue about! I'd always worked with talented library staff from many different departments, and here I was without another soul to ask. I found an NSLS magnet my predecessor had left on a filing cabinet, and your staff was so helpful in pointing me to resource sharing information, training opportunities, and more." (Medical Research Librarian)
Other Regional Systems got similar affirmations: "The opportunities to interact with other member libraries and participate in continuing education programs are very important. These are the types of service that have the most impact and value for our patrons." (Public Librarian, DuPage Library System)
It's not over. Regional Library Systems got the payment in January they were promised in August. More than 60 percent of allocated monies still have not been paid and the news regarding the state budget is not good. Library systems are just one of the groups that have performed contracted work and still have not been paid.
But on Jan. 20, 2010, library advocates learned a great lesson. We can speak with one voice and we can get attention. Perhaps there is a cynic out there who would say, "Well you might have gotten the money anyway - it was just a coincidence." I'm not having it. We're claiming victory: the victory of coming together, flexing our advocacy muscle in the Internet age, and the affirmation that our services are valuable and lots of people will help tell our story.
Since this is a continuing story, watch our progress and help us with our effort. Visit saveillinoislibraries.com for more information.