Building relationships with your city council

Responsibility: Report regularly to the governing officials and the general public

Building good rapport with the city council really helps when the library needs big equipment, new carpeting, or extra funding to start a new project. Good rapport with the city also encourages them not to pass charter ordinances limiting the library's mill levy. Yet merely talking to the city council only when asking for money may not establish enough rapport. You need to show the city council that you are serving the community all year round. Here are two ways to build rapport with the city council.
Keep them informed about what is happening at the library.

Invite them to all library events to make them aware of everything the library does. Another option is to make a middle of the year report, e.g., talk about recent storytimes or programs or new services.

Feed them.

Many library boards invite the city council to an annual lunch or dinner. During the meal, library staff talk about the library. One library showed a slide show of kids enjoying summer library program, library staff walking in an annual parade, etc. Another library addresses city problems, e.g., how the library offers a safe place for kids to hangout after school, etc. These events show city council that tax money is providing valuable services to the community.

Ask for small favors.

Benjamin Franklin claimed, "He that has once done you a Kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." This is called the Ben Franklin Effect. Franklin used this tactic to win a rival to his side. So if the city council is adversarial, ask them for a small favor that will cost them almost nothing. <>

  • Ask city council members to pose for a picture to use in a READ poster. Post these posters in the library or, better yet, in local shop windows. CKLS staff can help your library make READ posters.

  • At a meeting, hand each member a picture book. Ask them to come to the library during story time and read that book to the kids.

  • Ask them to do a kid’s program explaining how city government works.