About the program
From research to reality
In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded OCLC a $1.2 million grant to conduct research, develop strategies, create materials and evaluate the potential of marketing and communications programs to sustain and increase funding for U.S. public libraries. OCLC partnered with Chicago-based marketing communications agency Leo Burnett USA, as well as a distinguished advisory group of librarians and community leaders, to help guide the project. The resulting quantitative study, From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America , identified and profiled market segments based on library funding support tendencies. The study also compared the attitudes of local elected and appointed officials to those of their constituents. The findings provide the strategy and the structure for the current community-based awareness campaign.
Funded by an additional grant from the Gates Foundation, OCLC led the development and implementation of the Geek the Library awareness campaign designed to increase public awareness about libraries and library support at the local level. Again, OCLC partnered with Leo Burnett USA to pilot the campaign with nearly 100 public libraries in southern Georgia and central Iowa, as well as additional communities in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, working closely with library staff and media outlets. These participants were selected based on a variety of criteria, including local need for increased library support, library funding structure, available resources, and readiness and commitment to implement an awareness campaign. OCLC purposely selected regions with no expected library ballot initiative, such as a local government funding levy or referendum, between June 2009 and June 2010.
OCLC and its library partners took a multipronged approach that proactively connected the public to information about the value of libraries and their role in communities. The pilot campaign utilized a broad range of marketing and advertising tactics—including e-mail marketing, online marketing, public relations initiatives, a campaign Web site ( geekthelibrary.org) and grassroots components—to influence changes in the public's attitudes, awareness and understanding of library support.
OCLC worked with local library leaders to ensure that efforts complemented any existing library marketing initiatives, and used quantitative research and a variety of other tracking tools to evaluate the effectiveness of the different awareness campaign components. The pilot campaign launched in June 2009, and official field support and tracking ended in April 2010. Many pilot libraries are continuing their local awareness campaigns independently.
Interested U.S. public libraries should visit get.geekthelibrary.org for a detailed campaign overview and to complete a short form for more information about adopting Geek the Library. Libraries and library systems that decide to implement the campaign locally will receive initial training and ongoing support, and full access to all campaign material.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates, Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org.