Announcing Our Partnership With Gale for New Data on Library Support

We are excited to announce a partnership with Gale, who is providing their Analytics On Demand platform to us, which allows us to take a closer look at the data around library support in the United States. Analytics On Demand is Gale’s data analytics tool for public libraries.

We are excited to announce a partnership with Gale, who is providing their Analytics On Demand platform to us, which allows us to take a closer look at the data around library support in the United States. Analytics On Demand is Gale’s data analytics tool for public libraries.

The importance of data-driven campaigns

One of the biggest barriers to success at the polls during political campaigns for libraries is the lack of data about library voters—who they are, what they care about, and what activates them to vote in favor of libraries. This lack of data causes a number of problems when we try to talk to voters about why they support or oppose libraries. For example, we can’t target voters for “vote yes” campaigns because we don’t know who to target, or the demographics of a typical library supporter or voter, and we don’t know the message that would activate them. Because of this lack of data, there are even a few marketing and consulting groups who are simply trying to win campaigns and market libraries based on things like "gut instinct" and that can set up some dangerous precedents and bad data ecosystems in the profession. While we have experience to guide us, we simply don’t have the hard data to tell us why voters choose to vote for or against libraries. This lack of data also makes library campaigns highly-inefficient and drastically increases the costs because we have to begin with broadly targeted campaigns that ask everyone if they support their local library instead of targeting smaller groups of people who are most likely to support libraries with messages we know will work.

The last research conducted on this topic was a ground-breaking and highly-important study in 2008 called “From Awareness to Funding” by OCLC and the Gates Foundation. Though revolutionary for its time and still insightful, because this study relied on data collected in 2007, it predates the economic recession as well as the formation of the Tea Party and other well-organized anti-gov and anti-tax groups. While much of this data helped guide us in a lot of work, we are seeing a significant slide in the accuracy of the data. Additionally, the 2008 study highlights many of the things we don’t know about library supporters. For example, library voters don’t vote along party lines and there’s not a large correlation between library users and their propensity to vote for libraries—these facts make it difficult to find a model library voter and understand what motivates them to vote for libraries. However, even without providing clarity in these key areas, as a first-of-its-kind effort, the study was a resounding success. By looking at this data about voters, we are able to eliminate some of our preconceived notions and biases about voters and libraries and that’s the first step. Our next step will come as a result of our new partnership with Gale.

Our partnership with Gale

In an effort to learn how we can target voters and build voter models around consumer demographics, we are excited to partner with Gale who has provided us access to their Analytics On Demand platform. This platform allows us to look for trends among those who have identified themselves as library supporters by way of our campaigns to-date. Essentially, we can look at the demographics of community members who pledged to vote “yes” for a library campaign or signed up to support libraries and Gale’s platform will provide us with the Mosaic Groups of those voters. While the data is anonymous (we won’t know the mosaic group of each individual), we can see trends about who is willing to vote for or support libraries and find new ways to target them through better messaging. We can even use A/B message testing for demographics for online ads and social media to help us build more effective messaging.

Mosiac is a classification system used by Experian Marketing Services that can be used to dramatically change the way we talk about libraries to the public. Mosaic separates households based on consumer lifestyle segmentation and classifies households and neighborhoods into 71 descriptive segments organized into 19 overarching groups. The classification is based on income, buying habits, household age composition, and life events. By understanding these market segments and their correlation with library voters, we can start to use A/B testing to find messaging that resonates best with each group. We can then use that messaging to build the biggest database of library supporters, voters, and advocates in the United States and activate them to fight for libraries.

We truly want to thank Gale for allowing us to access their Analytics On Demand platform to better understand our library supporters. We hope that we can share what we learn with the greater library community and build a better library ecosystem. Please look for our analysis of library supporters and voters after the November election.

Building a sustainable advocacy effort

One of the ways we use your donations is to fund our research, and that’s why we are asking you to start a $5-$25 a month donation today, or to make a larger one-time donation. The money we raise will help us translate the insights we learn through using Analytics On Demand, into models for engaging library voters and supporters across the country, and we will share that research through our open journal, the Political Librarian, to the profession at large.


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