Every day is an opportunity to advocate for all types of libraries. Use these tips to get you started during economic hard times as a member of the library staff, as a Friend, as a library trustee, faculty or administrator.
Talk, talk, talk!
Look around you. These days there are people everywhere who could really use their library, and who don’t know about the valuable resources just waiting for them. At the grocery store, student union, the bank, PTA or staff meetings, the post office, in dorms, on a walk with your dog – talk to people and tell them why you love and value the library. Help them see what they could learn there, and how they can help bolster support for this cornerstone of their community, campus or school. It doesn’t take much more than a friendly conversation for you to be a hero for your library!
- Stay up to date on state and national activity. View the latest resources, publications and information on library advocacy, as well as sign up for advocacy discussion lists. Contact your state association for information on important issues affecting your state.
- Subscribe to AL Direct! Delivered straight to your inbox every Wednesday, this electronic newsletter is the weekly supplement to ALA's American Libraries magazine. AL Direct features news about libraries and librarians worldwide, library-related videos and podcasts, technology trends, books and publishing, intellectual freedom issues, legislation, and much more.
Get to know your representatives (and their staffs).
You’ve elected them; but how can you get them to help your cause? Get to know them – and their staffs – first. Visit your representatives’ Web sites to learn their issues and priorities. Invite them to your libraries and let them see first hand how valuable your library is to your community and to academic excellence. Let them know you want them to support all types of libraries, and library-friendly policies and give them specific ways they can get involved. You can schedule an appointment by calling your legislator’s office, or even better, invite your representatives to visit the library for a special event you’ve planned. Let them see how their constituents are using the valuable services provided by the library, and you’ll gain an important ally.
Work on your library’s print or online newsletter.
Many libraries now have a regular newsletter for patrons, students, and faculty. Volunteer to write an advocacy column for the newsletter, highlighting ways that patrons and advocates can help the library, whether that is through a letter-writing campaign, volunteering at events, calling their legislators, or other means. Collecting all the valuable information in one place helps interested parties pick and choose among the many ways to help.
Make – and/or distribute – handouts.
Important information about the library, its services, and needs can be distributed in writing, for people to read later or pass on to others. If you have desktop publishing skills, or know someone who does, work to build written materials that can be passed on to others. These can include the library’s hours and services, a “wish list” of things the library needs, information about an upcoming event, or any other pertinent library information. These ideas should be posted on your library’s bulletin board for all to see.
ALA provides a wealth of materials, including PR Tools and Resources, to help you get stated through @ your library®, the Campaign for America’s Libraries.
Plan a library event.
Any event during the year is an opportunity to showcase your library. Create an event or promotion that will get your Friends, trustees or other volunteers involved. You can host the event at the library or a local mall, county fair, park, or any campus venue and invite the media to attend. Learn about initiatives celebrated nationwide, including Banned Books Week, Library Card Sign-up Month, and National Library Week. Always invite elected officials to your events!
You have your own built-in army of advocates. Use it!
Many who work in libraries forget that they have a built-in army: the library staff. From library director to custodian, no one knows – and appreciates – the inner workings of your library like they do. Teach them the basics on library advocacy – share the resources of ALA has to offer and keep them abreast of current events.
Attend state library legislative days – and the ALA National Legislative Day, if possible. Bring Friends, trustees, and other supporters. Learn about federal efforts and “Take Action” to contact your legislator. To learn about state issues, visit the Web site of your state library association.
Offer Internet tours.
For those without a computer at home, the library is the number one point of Internet access. Your library can be the window to the Internet for many people in your community. Offer to show patrons how to use it, and walk them through your library’s Internet policies. You can even invite local politicians and community leaders to a community-wide Internet orientation event, and show them how the library offers everyone equal access to technology.
Speaking publicly about the specific value in your library. Are you good at public speaking? Call your local or campus radio talk show or TV news show. Like to write? Write a letter to the editor or an op/ed piece for your local paper, or ask students and faculty to write editorials for the campus paper. However you get in touch with the local or campus press, make sure you’ve developed your key messages and anticipated tough questions ahead of time, and be ready with statistics and information you can rattle off on the spot. To build your skills, check out Tools for Advocacy.
Be your library’s ambassador to the public or academic community.
Go out into your community and do public appearances to advocate for your library. Visit your local Lions, Elks, or Rotary Club, student and faculty meetings, parent meetings at neighborhood schools, union meetings, and neighborhood watch groups – wherever people gather. Offer to speak about the things your library offers, and how many people are served there. Paint a picture of your school and community without this wonderful resource – and enlist the help of these powerful groups in supporting the people and buildings behind it!
Build your network.
You are a powerful agent for change on your own, but involving more people makes your message even stronger. Developing a network of library advocates in your community or on campus is a great way to add voices to the chorus of support. When you find people who are willing and able to help, keep track of their contact information and availability. Start a phone tree or an e-mail list to keep in touch with everyone so that when an issue arises, you’ll know just who to contact to get the word out.
Help spread the word to the rest of the world! Visit Ilovelibraries.org to stay informed about everything libraries have to offer, as well as develop new ways to be involves in their continued health and vitality. Ilovelibraries.org is a website designed for the people who use and love libraries.
Add your idea here.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. As you move forward in your advocacy endeavors, please let ALA know about your successes and new ideas. Send an email to email@example.com to share your experiences or tips. Your input – fresh ideas and energy – will keep library advocacy moving forward!