Need buy-in? Collaboration is the name of the game.

This post was written by Digital Equity in Libraries research team member Amy Honisett, Public Training Librarian at Multnomah County Library.

In support of a research project focused on public library patrons, our research team needed to figure out how to get participants. Would you like to take an assessment of how you problem solve in technology rich environments? Of course not, that sounds terrifying.

The first step was to have patrons complete a background survey. Those eligible patrons would then be invited to take the PSTRE assessment.  To achieve our goal of including a range of patrons we offered a $20 cash incentive for completing the assessment, but we also leveraged our patrons’ feelings of responsibility and affection for the library. To show potential participants why they should help us, we created half page flyers with information about how to access the survey, and a call to action, “The library needs your help! We want to make sure our resources work for everyone.”

Initially, we set up in library lobbies and entrances to ask people for their participation. This was difficult and time consuming, and it meant that we were not reaching as many patrons as we needed or wanted.

We then turned to library staff, who kept the flyers at reference desks, and talked the survey up to patrons. Gaining support from library staff was crucial, as they know their patrons and their community. Their efforts lead to 436 clicks on our survey link.

Later, when we needed to gain input from lower-income community members, we again relied upon collaboration with library staff, who brought our cause out into homeless shelters and low-income housing, bringing in even more potential survey participants than we could offer the assessment to. We ended up with 465 participants completing the background survey and close to 200 individuals who took the assessment.  

Lessons learned:

  1. People want to know how their participation helps. Tell them why you need them!
  2. Collaboration is essential for the best results. We could never have reached so many people on our own.
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