3 Ways to Make the Case for Community Engagement Technology

May 3, 2018 | Articles

President Trump’s FY2019 budget proposal suggests eliminating virtually all library funding from the federal budget. Unfortunately, the president isn’t alone in considering major library budget cuts. Considering that Kentucky’s governor proposes an elimination of $2.5 million in library aid and New York’s governor has pitched a 3% cut from the last year’s State Library Aid program, it’s clear that many states are on board with this concerning trend.

Uncertainty around sources of funding may have your library worried about spending money on new tools, including — and perhaps especially — software. Read on for three creative ways to extend your library budget for these integral tools that can help you boost circulation and event attendance, expand your services and manage your resources.

1. Start Early

According to Toni Garvey, Phoenix (AZ) Public Library Director, you should never wait until the next budget-planning season to start making the case for an investment. “Decision makers need to hear about your services all year — not just when they’re voting on a new budget. It’s easier to get and hold their attention when they’re not being deluged.”

Elsabé Olivier, Assistant Director of Marketing and Quality Assurance for the University of Pretoria (South Africa) tried the approach of starting early when pushing for her library to launch a mobile app. The now-live app continues to drive excitement among staff, and Olivier believes that excitement comes not just from the value of the new service, but also from the fact that staff members were involved in the decision-making and testing period before the launch.

When you’re making the case to your decision makers, take a page from Olivier’s book: Avoid surprising them with the need for software around budget finalizing time. Voice your need for a tool as soon as you recognize that the need exists, and you’ll be more likely to get the support you need to fund the investment.

2. Tie Tools to Multiple Outcomes

Dedicating a substantial amount of your already stretched budget to a tool that only serves a single purpose is difficult, if not impossible. After all, your library serves more than one purpose! You offer access to print and digital resources, but you also serve as a community center, providing entertainment as well as educational and networking opportunities for your community members. You’re evaluated on several key performance indicators, so you need tools that help you achieve multiple outcomes.

When requesting funding for software, emphasize how it will support all of your library’s goals and objectives, rather than singling out one purpose. Here are examples of questions you should be prepared to answer for your decision makers:

  • Will the software raise awareness of your programs, collections and services, helping you meet marketing and advertising goals?
  • Will it increase the accessibility of all of your resources, helping you increase circulation and drive branch traffic?
  • Will it engage local underserved populations, helping you develop deeper relationships with all members of your community?
  • Will it impact the health and literacy levels of those you serve, helping you make a significant difference in your community?
  • Will it deepen your understanding of patron behavior to inform future decisions, helping you gather the insight you need to see the highest return on investment (ROI) possible?
  • Will it demonstrate impact and outcomes to board members and stakeholders, helping you efficiently prove your ROI?
  • Will it help you reinvest time previously spent managing programs so you can focus your limited resources on the work that only you can do — serving your community members?

When considering your options, choose tools that check at least two or more of these boxes. Making the financial case for multifunctional software will be much easier than convincing your budget approvers to fund single-use software.

3. On That Note, Drop the “Software” Label

Most library budgets have a software line item, but most also have software needs that far exceed that budgeted amount. To make the case for investing in technology that will help you fulfill your library’s mission, think beyond the software line item.

For example, if you have your eye on community engagement software, consider pulling funds from one of the following budget line items instead:

  • Contracted services: When purchasing community engagement software, be sure to consider the level of customer service and support you’ll receive as part of your ongoing subscription. Often, these professional services are contracted for the life of your subscription, starting with implementation and continuing throughout and beyond launch. If your software subscription includes these professional services, consider covering a portion of the cost under this line item of your budget.
  • Public relations: By investing in technology that helps you increase community engagement, you’re expanding the ways that you relate with the public. After all, true community engagement software facilitates a full range of library promotion, from putting your library at the top of online search results to making your events calendar more accessible.
  • Public programs: Does the tool that you’re considering simplify registration for events? Does it provide a foundation for your year-long reading programs? Will it help you organize your program schedule? If yes, consider making the case that community engagement software is an integral part of the logistics of your public programs.

Need more help making the budget case for community engagement software? We’re here to help! Contact our experts today!

References and Resources

“10 Things I Know to Be True About Budgeting for Libraries,” Toni Garvey, ALA

“Cuomo Proposes Cuts to Library Funding,” Arcade Herald

“KY Governor’s Budget Would Eliminate Library Funds,” Library Journal

Trump Renews Bid to Eliminate Library Funding, NEA, and NEH,” Publishers Weekly

Kayla Fargo

As Demco Software's Marketing Director, Kayla champions our efforts to educate public libraries on the need for a robust community engagement strategy. She works alongside our other teams to ensure that Demco Software's solutions effectively complement and amplify libraries' community engagement efforts.