Advocacy

Public library services play a unique role in municipal and county government and are not always understood by local or state officials.  It is essential that local and state officials are aware of public library services and their value.” Advocates can fulfill this role.

 

 Advocates

Advocates include: librarians, trustees, Friends of the Library groups, library patrons, community and institutional leaders, and most importantly, people of all ages and all walks of life who view the public library as an essential part of their community. Being an advocate means communicating, as an individual or group, with decision makers and others in support of or opposition to specific issues.

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Trustees, Friends of the Library members, and other supporters can advocate for their local libraries and library systems more effectively than librarians because:

  • They are not paid staff of the public library system.
  • They are strong customers/supporters of public library services.
  • They see the public library from the user’s viewpoint.
  • They are active in the community, understand the power structure, and volunteer with other community groups or civic organizations.
  • They vote and are seen as constituents.

The American Library Association has a handbook specifically for Library Advocacy: http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/ola/libraryadvocateshandbook.pdf

 

 Advocacy Plan

Library advocacy is part of an ongoing plan coordinated through the efforts of the administrative board of trustees and the public library system director.  Ideally, each public library system should have a written advocacy plan that targets community leaders—Including local, state, and federal government officials—on a continual basis.  Successful advocacy tells a library’s story by combining lobbying techniques with marketing concepts and public relations skills.

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Library advocacy should be tied to the public library system’s mission, goals, and ongoing public awareness program.  To implement an effective advocacy campaign, a detailed action plan with clearly defined goals and objectives is essential.  To be effective, a public library system’s supporters must be able to articulate library service needs with an easily understood unified message.  An advocacy plan should:

  • Define goals and objectives.
    • Identify desired outcomes (e.g., new legislation, more funding, greater visibility)
    • Assess whether or not the library is meeting its objectives in targeted areas
      • Identify barriers/opposition/strengths/potential supporters.
      • Identify critical tasks.
        • Key areas include:
          • Steering committee
          • Budget
          • Volunteers
          • Coordination of activities with ALA/state association
          • Fundraising
          • Develop a communication plan.
            • Key elements include:
              • Defining the key message
              • Targeting key audiences
              • Identifying communication strategies and resources needed
              • Develop a work plan with tasks, assignments and deadlines.
                • Monitor progress regularly.
                • Document and evaluate results.
                  • Identify ways to improve future efforts.

The American Library Association has a workbook that can assist with developing an Advocacy Plan: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/advleg/advocacyinstitute/Advocacy%20Action%20Plan%20-%20revised%2001-09.pdf

 

Advocacy Strategy

As part of an advocacy strategy, it is important to inform groups or individuals speaking on the public library’s behalf about the organization’s message. Important components of the message include  but are not limited to:

  • The public library system’s advocacy goal
  • The library system’s key message (10 to 15 words)
  • The system’s target audience
  • Why the advocacy goal is important to that audience
  • Three supporting points relating to the issues in question
  • Examples/stories/facts of local impact to support the message
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Factors that can influence an advocacy strategy:

  • Having a positive approach. Be considerate and polite.
  • Timing. Year-round contact with public officials.  Keep current on political developments and adhere to the governing body’s timetable.
  • Know the personality and interests of public officials; relate library goals to those interests.
  • Align library interests and positions with those of other groups/organizations.
  • Thank public officials, regardless of outcome or argument.
  • Recognize public officials who support library efforts.

 

Resources Relating to Advocacy
  •  Mississippi Library Association (MLA): A membership organization of trustees, librarians, and advocates whose mission is to provide professional leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.  MLA is a chapter organization of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Southeastern Library Association (SELA). (http://info@misslib.org)
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  • United for Libraries: A national network of enthusiastic library supporters who believe in the importance of libraries as the social and intellectual centers of communities and campuses. No one has a stronger voice for libraries than those who use them, raise money for them, and govern them. By uniting these voices, library supporters everywhere will become a real force to be reckoned with at the local, state, and national levels. (http://www.ala.org/united/)

 

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