Advocacy is crucial for telling voters, legislators, patrons, and other stakeholders WHY their continued support for libraries is so important. To help inspire and inform members on the many forms of advocacy, the Legislative Committee spotlights Robin Gard (58), a library board trustee, and her granddaughter,’ Madeline Gard (15), a high school sophomore , from Ft. Collins, CO on their co-advocacy.
A: Robin: I am your typical lifelong library groupie. I was recruited in 2006 by friends to join a citizens’ committee to work on a ballot measure for passage of a library district. I periodically call on my granddaughter to help as she is a big library fan. I started taking her to library storytimes as a toddler and she was a library volunteer for three summers.
Madeline: I love the library and I helped my grandma with campaigning. I’ve been going to the library my whole life.
Q: What are some of your favorite advocacy activities?
A: Robin: I was a member of our founding governing board of trustees when our library district was established in 2007 and currently serve as board vice president. In addition, I am active in the Colorado Assn. of Libraries serving as chair of the Trustees & Friends Division, sit on the Legislative Committee, the CAL Executive Board, and the Intellectual Freedom Committee. One of the key responsibilities for a trustee is to act as an advocate for their libraries and for the library community in general. I love just talking to people about our libraries â€“ pointing out new resources they might not have known about, talking about the future of libraries in the digital age (a huge concern for a lot of patrons) and thanking them for supporting the library with their attendance and their tax dollars.
An important selling point for libraries is what we can mean to the economic vitality of a community and what a great resource we are for our businesses. We have a terrific business librarian who works with various governmental programs and with the local Chamber of Commerce to assist entrepreneurs. We buy and offer data bases that are very useful to business startups and would be expensive for them to do individually.
Madeline: I was a library volunteer for three summers, mostly working with younger kids.’ I have marched in parades with my grandma, and done some sign-waving on corners. We went to the Capitol to talk about how important libraries are and got to meet a lot of lawmakers and sit on the House floor while they were in session.
Q: ‘ Have you seen the impact youth can have when they advocate? Do you think there is a difference in youth advocating versus when adults advocate?
A: Robin: I have been involved in two library campaigns since 2006. My granddaughter has campaigned with me both times, and at the age of 9 spoke briefly in front of our county commissioners to express her support for libraries.
One of the most fun and most rewarding activities for young people is to join a campaign.’ Their stamina and enthusiasm are very welcome and they enjoy making’ and waving signs, marching in parades, even speaking in front of local gatherings. It gives them a grounding in civic engagement as well.
My granddaughter also joined me at our state Legislative Day at the State Capitol â€“ a terrific opportunity for teens. We met our local lawmakers, watched legislation work its way through the system, sat on the House floor, etc. Since Madeline is a high school student studying civics, she was interested in seeing the system â€œlive.â€ Legislators were very keen in seeing a student participate â€“after all, she is a future voter!
Q. How can friends, trustees, and librarians get more youth involved in advocating?
A: Robin: I think ALL volunteers but particularly young people would prefer to have a specific task to carry out. They need a concise goal and deadline and some parameters. Then, within that framework, they harness their fresh ideas and energy in some creative and surprising ways. Our local Friends group has a teen voting member on their Board. They are looking into junior Friends membership and also using the teens to help with being more active on social networking sites â€“ which most of our demographic is not overly comfortable with. Teens are usually happy to help with a event â€“ like a book sale, or a program.
Q: ‘ What would you tell teens who do not currently use their library why they should start using it?
A: Madeline:‘ Teens who aren’t using the library should give it a try because it easy to hang out there. It’s quiet and comfortable and the teen areas are great. And, if you have family hassles or pesky brothers and sisters, it’s a way to get away for a while. They have wifi and computers there, and the internet is a huge deal to kids and teens.
Q: ‘ What are the best ways to reach teens to encourage them to use the library?
A: Madeline: To tell teens about the library, trying using Facebook. Also posters in schools would get some attention.