Build Relationships

Effective, year-round advocacy begins with strong relationships with local community influencers and elected leaders at the local, state and federal level. Working with other library advocates is critical, as they can make connections that will help you establish and sustain relationships with decision makers.

Relationships with Elected Officials

Learn who they are.

  • Use ALA’s Action Center to identify and reach out to your U.S. senators and representatives as well as your state and local policymakers.
  • Contact your state association for information on your state’s legislative agenda and policy priorities.

Learn what they care about.

  • Do your homework. What issues are important to your elected leader? What committees do they serve on? What was their profession before their political career? What are their personal interests? How do their interests intersect with your library’s services? You can find some of this information directly on the leader’s website.
  • Sign up to receive regular email updates from your legislators to stay current on their messaging and activities.
  • Attend regular town hall meetings and local community events to show that libraries are important stakeholders in decision making that impacts library users (i.e., every voter) – and so that they can put a face with a name on all your communications with them.
  • Send a message to new legislators to introduce your library and offer your resources to them and their staff. ALA sends a welcome letter to every new U.S. senator and representative to introduce ourselves and share our vision for libraries across the country. Use our Action Center to contact your newly elected or returning officials.

Invite them to visit your library.

  • The one thing that’s better than telling your library story is showing it. Hosting a decision maker or their staff in person can show the impact your library is making on your community, school or campus. A personal visit also provides an opportunity for photos and positive media coverage as well as social media – for both the library and the legislator. For more information, read ALA’s resources on arranging a congressional tour and working with media.

Relationships with other library advocates.

  • School affiliates, academic chapters, state libraries, and other consortia and organizations are partnering with state associations for coordinated statewide legislative agendas and organization of state legislative days. Ask your association’s leadership how this is being implemented in your state.
  • United for Libraries is a national network of library supporters – including library trustees, Friends and foundations – who believe in the importance of libraries as hubs of information and resources for communities and campuses. Working with United for Libraries members can increase your base of advocates and provide new connections to establish and strengthen relationships with decision makers at the local, state, and national levels.
     

Congressional Management Foundation Resources

The Congressional Management Foundation, an organization that works directly with Members of Congress and staff to enhance their operations and interactions with constituents, has partnered with ALA to provide training videos, covering everything from Congress 101 to hosting district events. Because of the Congressional Management Foundation licensing, this is an ALA member resource only; select the video and login to view.

  1. District Events Members of Congress Will Want to Attend
  2. The Value of Personalizing and Localizing Messages to Congress
  3. Strategies for Building Relationships with Lawmakers Back Home
  4. Effective Stories to Share with Lawmakers
  5. District Directors "Dos" and "Don'ts" of District Activity
  6. What Congress is Looking for in Constituent Communication
  7. How to Connect to Congress via Social Media
  8. Congress 101 - An Insider View of Capitol Hill