You mean there’s another side?’ Well, of course there is!’ We are so eager to get our point across and convince the “enemy” that we need that new teen space or to budget for another school librarian that we forget that’ there are often legitimate reasons for why those things haven’t happened yet.’ I would suggest that before any advocacy/lobbying take place, you sit for a moment and seriously ponder what the other side may be experiencing and the challenges that the other side may be facing.’ Once you have examined the other side of the fence, your enemy may no longer be an enemy but a potential collaborator in your cause.’ Consider these ideas:’
I’m Sorry, Who Are You?
By the time you actually get to that meeting with your principal, superintendent, town/city council you have already done a lot of footwork.’ You catch flies with honey, suga,” being proactive is key.’ The assumption is that the key figures in your community know who you are.’ You want them to have a sense of who you are and what you represent before you step foot in the door of the meeting.’ This means that over time you have invited the “key” figures of your community to any/all library events; you have e/mailed copies of all good press that your library and events receive; and you have sent thank you notes to them for their participation, no matter how small.’ The key figures should feel vested in the library and the services that it offers.
Aren’t I Too Old for Homework?
Never!’ You’re never too old for homework.’ You’ve made innumerable PR contacts with the key figures of your community.’ Now, it’s time to set foot in the door.’ You’ve tried to imagine the situations, circumstances, and challenges that your key figure is facing.’ But, don’t stop there.’ Actually do some legwork.’ Look at city council meeting minutes to get a feel for the major concerns of the council at the moment.’ Find out which major isues each council member supported; and, if possible, why.’ Find numbers, facts, and figures that your council member may be dealing with on a daily basis.’ Research it thoroughly because those are probably the issues that are pressing on that member’s mind at the moment, and they could be the issues that are keeping you from that new teen space.
My Time is Valuable
Let them know that you are about business.’ Always know what your library’s key message is and state it at least twice in your conversation.’ Try to have a new personal story or example to support your key message every time you talk to the key figures in your community.’ This let’s them know that the library and its services actually do have a huge impact on the communities that they serve.’ Then make your request very specifically.’ Don’t say, “We need your support in finding a way to provide a teen space in our library.”‘ Say, “We want the council to support a bond for one million dollars to build a phenomenal teen space.”‘ Then sit back and…
Shut Up Already!
If there is one thing that Oprah has taught us it’s that everyone has a “sob story.”‘ And, we can take another lesson from Oprah–listen to that sob story!’ She’s rich; she’s famous; she’s powerful–right?’ She got there by listening and using what she hears.’ Actually listening (not waiting to interrupt) to the other side’s argument can actually be the best clue about how to proceed with your request.’ Remember, you want your teen space, but you also want to create partnerships and collaborations.’ Listening is a good way to make all of that happen.
Don’t Forget to Consider the Alternative–Negotiate
You have a key message, you have supporting examples, hooks, and the big ask.’ But, make sure that you have also considered the alternative possibility.’ What will your organization do if you’re told “no”?’ What will your organization do if you’re told “maybe but done differently”?’ If you can’t have exactly what you want, what would work?’ If your council member is adamantly against your library’s request, be prepared to put negotiations on the table.’ Your request is for the good of young adults and the community, but for the other side it might only be about the bottom line.’ That doesn’t make the other side a monster.’ It just means that you have to use multiple strategies.
Keep at it and don’t lose hope!