To advocate: “speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” Advocacy is an active process that takes place on multiple levels and for different audiences. Many of us are looking for what we can do to build support for our library services, programs, and patrons. Advocacy is relative to different levels of “community:”

  • The national community: When we advocate on a national level, we “speak out” to support legislation that provides funding for our state library systems, education bills such as the SKILLs Act, or appeal for funding for professional research/grants such as provided by IMLS. We “urge” federal politicians to create and support pro library legislation face to face or with phone calls and emails.
  • The state community: Many important decisions about funding that directly affects libraries are made at the state level because federal monies are often awarded in “block grants.” States are allowed to allocate funds as the state legislature sees fit, so we can appear before our state Representatives and Senators to “argue” and provide evidence that our libraries provide invaluable services to our communities and schools. We can also organize political action events so that our peers and colleagues know it is time to take action.
  • Local communities: Grassroots, local advocacy is critical for marketing the importance of our libraries to local patrons and stakeholders. We can advocate at city council and school board meetings and with local law enforcement and social service divisions to highlight our programs that may reach out to mothers with young children, illiterate adults, those who are learning English as a second language, and youth services. We “recommend” our services in a public forum to build awareness and form partnerships.

During this difficult economic time, it is critical that we all advocate (speak, write, argue, urge, and recommend) our library resources and programs to all important stakeholders as an integral part of all three communities. 

advocate. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v1.1). Retrieved February 1, 2009, from

     Dictionary.com Website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/advocate

About Paula Griffith

Paula Griffith teaches young adult literature at the University of Houston Clear Lake. She is a member of YALSA's Legislative Committee.

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