Who directly benefits from the library programs and services you provide? Who’s in the background, supporting your efforts and cheering you on at every step? Which individuals or groups share your passion for improving outcomes for youth and families? Take the first steps toward advocacy by identifying these key stakeholders in your library community:
When we hear the term “library stakeholders,” we may think first about the groups and individuals the library reaches directly with its resources, programs, and services. These primary stakeholders include the following individuals and groups:
- Children of all ages;
- Parents and their surrogates (non-parental caregivers, foster parents, etc.);
- Educational partners (schools, teachers, home schools, charter schools, public schools, private schools, parochial schools, preschools, daycare centers, afterschool programs, tutors); and
- Organizations serving youth (after-school programs, scouts, recreation programs).
Within these general categories, we also recognize our service to distinct communities with unique needs:
- Immigrant or cultural/religious populations;
- Children and families coping with disabilities (mental, physical or emotional);
- Foster children; and
- LGBT youth and parents.
Secondary stakeholders are individuals and groups in your community who may not reap the immediate benefits of library programs and services but who share your passion for supporting children and families. We often need to seek these partners out. By cultivating them, we can develop a broader base of support in the community.
Gaining credibility and becoming part of community networks takes time and effort, but becoming a go-to partner is easier than you think! Start small. Talk to people. Keep up on activities in your community. Look for opportunities to make connections. Be realistic about what you can offer and be willing to ask others to provide support in forwarding library goals. Congratulate people for their successes!
Consider these potential partners in your efforts to rally support for library programs and services benefiting youth and families:
People of influence. Politicians; policy makers and their staff; religious institutions; local service clubs and organizations including Friends of Library groups; and library commissioners and trustees. Seek them out at all stages of their political lives. Get to know them personally and attempt to influence their view of the library and its role in the community. Involve them.
Other local government agencies and departments serving children, youth, and families. Check your connections. Do you know administrators and staff in the department of parks and recreation? Do they know you? Public Health and Health Department? Department of Family Services? Housing Authority, Probation Department?
When we engage with these agencies, we advance our mutual causes. Are there commissions and interagency collaborations focusing on youth and family issues in the community? We shouldn’t wait to be invited to join. Participate and convey the library’s role in education to the members of these groups. (Be prepared for sitting in meetings and using all of your persuasive techniques over and over again.) Offer help with their local initiatives in support of children and families. Be enthusiastic and effective partners. Ask them to contribute to your projects as well, and celebrate joint successes!
Local business people. These community leaders can provide funds or in-kind contributions. They can share their expertise in library activities and programs, help publicize your programs and generally create goodwill.
Library support groups. The Junior Friends of the Library; teen advisory boards; parent booster clubs; preschool story hour parent booster clubs; reading groups; and youth volunteers. These groups are all stakeholders, and they can be advocates, too. Develop and cultivate them as allies and supporters, and they will be there in times of need.
Cultural and special interest organizations. Museums, arts organizations, science groups and other interest-based groups are also stakeholders and potential advocates. Engage them in efforts to educate and improve the quality of life for the children and families in your community. Sometimes they have resources or can apply for grants when you cannot.
Funders and philanthropic individuals and groups. Philanthropists can also be identified and nurtured. They have a stake in the well being of children and families in your community, and they should be educated about the important role of the library in developing healthy children and families.