How to Organize a Rally

A rally is an opportunity for you to get the library support message out in a big way. Depending on the situation in your community, you may wish to create a mood of celebration - or, of protest. Either way, the rally provides a colorful focal point for making your point: "Save our library!"

To bring attention and visibility to the work that your local public, school and academic libraries are doing to fight the cuts to your services and programs, you can highlight various library users and leaders to illustrate the depth of the cuts, some of the ways you have had to cut back, and how you and your supporters can mobilize to get active in your community.

This rally guide includes tips for how you can put together an event.

Before You Get Started
Planning Your Event
Rally Logistics

Before You Get Started    

As you consider staging a rally, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What do you plan to accomplish? 
  2. Who is your audience and how do you reach them? Are you trying to get the attention of local legislators, patrons, etc.?
  3. Who are your allies and will they lend support?
  4. Can you collaborate on the event with other types of libraries?

Planning Your Event    

1. Determine a date.
Consider the timing of the rally. Consider doing it prior to the start of city council meetings when the welfare of libraries is on the agenda, or when something else related to libraries or funding is happening in your community. However, make sure the date you've selected isn't the date of a major city or statewide event that will steal your thunder.

2. Find rally sponsors.
Each library or library community has its own public and private funding streams, supporters, partners, etc and so it will be up to each of you to determine who will be willing and able to participate in the rally.

3. Select a rally location.
The goal of the rally is to get your message in front of as many persons as possible. If you plan is to convince local leadership to support the library on funding issues, expansion projects, etc.., then rally in front of City Hall,  or other locations where leadership is discussing or voting on relevant library issues.

If you are connecting your rally to state legislation, consider doing the event at your state capitol if the legislature is in session.

If your event is outside, will the weather be a factor? Will the event be outside?

Always notify your city hall or police department if you are planning a rally in a public space. Some cities require a permit, usually at no charge. If you have never gained a permit and you have no legislator to expedite the paperwork, ask your colleagues if someone has experience with this, or go to your local police precinct to start the ball rolling. Remember the Right to Assemble and Right of Free Speech!

4. Line Up Your Speakers.

It is recommended that you determine rally speakers, the location and the date of the rally as soon as you get started. However, these details may only come together as you get closer to the event date. Keep your staff/donors/friends/development committee abreast of the event status on a regular basis.

Is there a supportive representative or local politician that would co-sponsor the event with you? If you think there is, you will need to check with that person's staff very early on so that you can determine their availability, whether they can help you with access to a free space and their willingness to be part of the event.

You will need to be flexible. For example, several speakers may approach you directly before or during the event to ask for a chance to speak. Why not? If they respect your time constraints and have a good story to tell, the spontaneity can contribute to the event's success.

5. Send the Invitations. 

Invite special guests/dignitaries - those who are supportive and whom you are developing a relationship with.

Invite library users - an adult literacy student, business owner, parent or child - to tell their story about how the library has benefited them.

Invite key library leaders from your city and state such as the state librarian, representatives from your school, academic and public libraries to speak.

Rally Logistics    

1. Event space.

Regardless if the rally is held in an indoor or outdoor space, plan on defining an area for your rally that accommodates less people than you think may participate, so that the space looks full no matter how many people attend. It may be best if the space has no permanent fixtures so that you can set it up as desired. 

2. What you’ll need:

  • Campaign Materials: Campaign materials on all seats, including a pennant to wave, a list of action steps individuals can take after the rally, recent media stories.
  • Signage: A large banner hanging behind your speakers. The banner should include rally messages and library logo.
  • Seats: The size of your space will help you to determine the number of chairs to set up. Less seats than people is always recommended. A space of approximately 10 feet should be left between the stage and the chairs so there is plenty of space for people to walk up to the stage.
  • Microphone: A microphone on a stand about a third of the way back in the middle aisle. [If you are able to set up the room horizontally and you can have two aisles, you can place two microphones on stands in the aisles.]
  • Podium: A podium with a Save [Name of your library] banner attached to the front. If the weather looks unfavorable, consider using a canopy to keep the speakers and electrical equipment dry.
  • Easy access stairs: Two stairs leading up to the stage - one close to the podium and one close to the middle of the stage for speakers to walk straight up.
  • Supply table: A table with a stack of supporting materials, and visuals like library pennants on sticks, or small signs to be waved by crowd members or rally speakers while on stage.

3. Organizing your Program.

Once you have a good idea of who is committed to speak, begin to work out the order of the program. Visualize where people will be positioned while speaking and what action they will take when they are done making remarks. Your speakers may each end their remarks by saying "Save [Name of your library]," holding and swinging their pennant/sign.

Following is a possible program sequence:

  • Music
  • Welcome by Library Board President [2 - 3 minutes]
  • Remarks by VIP's [e.g. elected officials, committee chairs] [3 minutes each]
  • Short personal stories by five library users [Each 2 minutes or less]
  • Wrap-up  

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