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Reinforcing public libraries

Gates Foundation and OCLC continue partnership for library staff development

For more than 10 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and OCLC have partnered to deliver programs that help libraries evolve their services to meet new community needs. Together, we created WebJunction, the learning place for libraries, and Geek the Library, a community awareness campaign. With renewed funding and partnership, both programs will continue to champion library staff and amplify the value of libraries in the communities they serve.

WebJunction: supporting librarians as they learn and lead

Recently, OCLC received a $4.1 million grant from the Gates Foundation to support five years of ongoing operations of WebJunction, the learning place for libraries.

The new grant will support OCLC’s continued development of the programs, content and systems of, and provide long-term sustainability of services that will help libraries thrive in changing and challenging technological environments today and into the future.

“Together, our goal has been to equip these libraries with the technologies and skills needed to change lives and strengthen communities through access to information.”

“Since 2002, we have worked with OCLC to ensure that public libraries—especially small and rural public libraries—have had the resources they need to be portals to vital information,” said Deborah Jacobs, Director of Global Libraries at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Together, our goal has been to equip these libraries with the technologies and skills needed to change lives and strengthen communities through access to information.”

“Over these 10 years we have seen how offering technical assistance and training to library staff through the online community can help us accomplish this goal and make a powerful difference in the effectiveness of a library,” said Ms. Jacobs. “In these tough economic times, libraries are more of an essential community resource than ever. This grant will help them, many of whom face shrinking budgets, stay up to speed.”

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and OCLC have developed an outstanding partnership based on our mutual interest and shared passion to help libraries succeed,” said Cathy De Rosa, OCLC Vice President for the Americas and Global Vice President of Marketing. “As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of WebJunction, we are grateful to the Gates Foundation for their continued support and to the library staff members who have built WebJunction into a vital hub for public libraries to gather and share best practices, experiences and expertise.”

Built with grant funding from the Gates Foundation and launched in 2003, provides a range of resources—including online courses, webinar presentations, downloadable curricula and best practices from libraries—to share the knowledge, skills and support that librarians and library staff need to manage their libraries. Its programs and content have been used by staff in 69 percent of U.S. public libraries. From July 2011 through June 2012, staff enrolled in more than 19,000 courses, and more than 17,000 staff members registered for 26 free webinar programs offered on trends in the library profession.

“Library staff must keep their skills current to face the evolving needs of library users,” said Sharon Streams, Senior Manager, Community Services, WebJunction. “But managing staff training can be expensive, inconvenient, and difficult to fund and maintain. With WebJunction, OCLC partners with state library and other service agencies to provide cost-effective training and staff development programs that are convenient to access and easy to manage.”

Eighteen U.S. state library agencies partner with OCLC to offer their members sponsored access to self-paced courses and localized training content through One of the first state library partners was Connecticut State Library.

“For Connecticut, WebJunction is our main resource for library development,” said Kendall Wiggin, State Librarian. “We use WebJunction to provide information and courses on technology, managing a library, advocacy at a time of diminishing resources, and ways to better assist people coming into the library. It is also a great place for librarians to share and discuss experiences on timely issues or projects.”

Geek the Library: spreading the word about the vital role of public libraries and the critical funding issues they faces

OCLC’s Geek the Library community awareness campaign also recently received additional funds from the Gates Foundation that allows the program to expand to more libraries across the U.S. The $1.9 million supplemental grant ensures continued support for libraries already implementing local campaigns and support for 1,000 additional libraries that enroll prior to June 2014. The grant extends campaign support through June 2015, and will provide additional guidance and skills to library staff working to build community awareness about the benefits and value of local libraries.”

“Additional funds give OCLC the opportunity to enhance the program by translating important lessons we’ve learned in the campaign’s first years into even more support for the libraries we’re working with, and a greater focus in areas we know can help libraries raise awareness during the campaign and beyond,” said Chrystie Hill, Director of Community Relations for OCLC.

Geek the Library was piloted in 2009–2010, opened enrollment to all U.S. libraries in the fall of 2010, and has since helped hundreds of U.S. public libraries across 40 states raise awareness about the library, the value they bring to individuals and communities, and their need to retain or increase funding. The final phase of the program will focus on helping participating libraries engage library staff throughout the local campaign cycle. An important goal of the broader program is to provide not only an effective awareness campaign, but also knowledge and skills that library staff can use now and in the future.

“The campaign has been a great way for us to get the Chelsea community involved to also tell their stories and how the library supports them, which will benefit the library even after we’ve completed our campaign.”

“Here at Chelsea District Library, the Geek the Library campaign has allowed us to connect with new businesses and organizations in the community,” noted Anna Cangialosi, Marketing Coordinator for Chelsea District Library in Chelsea, Michigan. “Holding monthly photo shoots in-house has opened up our library to many nonusers, allowing us the opportunity to show how public libraries support everyone. In addition to the awareness we’re building in the community, the lessons we’ve earned have helped staff understand the importance of consistent messaging in telling our story. The campaign has been a great way for us to get the Chelsea community involved to also tell their stories and how the library supports them, which will benefit the library even after we’ve completed our campaign.”

Geek the Library was developed based on the results of OCLC’s research published in From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America. The research and pilot campaign were also funded by a grant from the Gates Foundation.

Interested public libraries can get more information about implementing the campaign locally at Get Geek the Library.