For the many Indiana residents who lack broadband access at home, schools and public libraries are an essential lifeline to internet connectivity. When the Indiana Senate approved a version of the state budget without allocating much-needed additional funds for internet connectivity, the Indiana Library Federation (ILF) doubled down with ALA’s Libraries Transform campaign as part of their efforts to build legislative support.
ILF, which represents nearly 2,000 libraries and library professionals in Indiana, took the popular Libraries Transform statement “Because more than a quarter of U.S. households don’t have a computer with an internet connection” and customized it to fit local data: “Because 1 in 6 Hoosiers lives in an area without access to broadband.” The ILF team shared the statement widely, including in newsletters, social media and their 2017 Policy Priority Agenda (PDF).
ILF’s efforts paid off: the Indiana General Assembly eventually committed to providing an additional $1 million to libraries and an additional $2 million to schools to support internet connectivity. “Because legislators understood that rural broadband is an unmet need for Indiana, we were able to make our case by connecting the two issues—libraries’ and schools’ needs for internet connectivity and the lack of access to broadband,” says Lucinda Nord, ILF’s executive director.
Indiana Representative Tim Brown, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, adds: “Legislators already understand that access to rural broadband is an issue in our state. The Indiana Library Federation helped us understand how many of our children and adults rely on publicly supported internet at libraries in order to complete homework, apply for jobs and interact with government.”
Looking ahead, the ILF staff intend to continue utilizing the Libraries Transform campaign for their communications and advocacy efforts. They’ve created several additional Indiana-specific “Because” statements to support other key messages for local libraries, which they’ll soon make available for download on their website. Already, “the reaction has been very strong” among Indiana’s library community, says Tisa Davis, ILF’s communication manager.
How can other libraries and library groups learn from the ILF’s internet connectivity success story? Davis says the key is finding a concept that resonates: “Develop a clear strategy and a simple message!” Whatever your public awareness and advocacy goals are, try formulating a single sentence that captures the heart of the issue, making sure to consider what language and data will most engage your audience. In ILF’s case, they could see that Indiana legislators would connect with their statistics-based argument for internet connectivity in libraries and schools.
Once you’ve settled on a message, share it far and wide—according to Davis, it comes down to “repetition, repetition, repetition.” The downloadable graphics in the Libraries Transform toolkit can serve as a starting point for creating posters, bookmarks, social media images and more, all of which you can display and distribute to make your message heard.