Libraries of all kinds have been challenged to demonstrate their value and relevance to public and institutional funders in Washington State. The five-year outreach and capacity building initiative created by Metropolitan Group in collaboration with Washington State Library focused on improving the strategic communication capacity of public, academic, school and specialty libraries across Washington State through and integrated marketing campaign that included custom designed materials for use in libraries systems as well as training in marketing, advocacy, partnership development, media relations and multicultural communication.
For several years, Metropolitan Group provided strategic communication for the Washington State Library through the training and outreach initiative described above. We also provided capacity building services to the Washington Institute in Library Leadership sponsored by the Washington State Library for library board trustees and senior library leadership. We developed comprehensive marketing, advocacy, partnership development, media relations and multicultural communication training curriculums customized specifically for library staff in libraries of all types. This work included the development of research-based messages that connect the value of libraries to shared community values.
More than 35 workshops were delivered throughout the state and more than 1,500 library leaders participated in the workshop series. In addition, at our recommendation a mini-grant program was created by Washington State Library to aid rural libraries in their efforts. A group of 20 library systems received “mini-grants” to develop specific communication plans for their libraries. Emphasis in grantee selection was placed on libraries in rural communities with limited staff capacity or expertise in communication. Completion of the basic workshop series was a prerequisite to consideration for grant awards.
Metropolitan Group also provided a bank of technical assistance hours that were available to all libraries that participated in the training series. This process allowed libraries to connect to professional support when they needed strategic communication support or counsel and/or experienced challenges in implementing this marketing, advocacy, partnership or media strategies.
In 2009 MG developed and implemented a partnership development strategy building relationships between the state library and the education community to advance stronger collaboration between libraries and schools (a challenge in many parts of Washington State). A partnership toolkit was developed as a component of this work and was promoted by Washington State Library as a collaboration between WSL and MG. We also developed a series of multicultural communication workshops based on the success of the workshop series and the desire of participants to build skill in working with multicultural audiences.