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 Christian Zabriske’s advocacy journey.
I got involved in library advocacy the same way that most of us do: a really nasty budget came down and I had to take time in my spare time to protect jobs and library access. It has become a pretty common story, librarians putting themselves out there politically because they have to. I don’t think anyone sets out to advocate for libraries, not librarians anyway. Every librarian I know believes in libraries and is willing to speak up for them but would ultimately rather be in one working with the patrons and collections. How then do we as a profession keep turning into activists every single year?
In a lot of ways it was easier for me than a lot of people. I had already started a librarian social/networking group called Urban Librarians Unite which met about once a month to drink beer, eat cheap tacos, and talk about libraries inNew York City. It was all very casual until the rounds of cuts started coming in fast and furious. Suddenly lots of our members’ jobs were at risk, people were getting layoff notices, and there was talk of closing libraries. Once pink slips were out it was pretty easy to motivate people to get on board and advocate for budget restorations.
We tried to continue that vibe of “we’re here for cheap beer and tacos” and make our events fun. At the same time we opened them up to a much wider demographic. We started reaching out to a lot of nonlibrarians, bringing seniors and families into the fold as well. We recruited teens as canvassers and to come out and help at our events and found them tireless and wonderful. Teens’ wells of optimism and energy are incredible resources for advocacy.
Letting teens be part of the process, even the decision making process, of what you are doing is so important to make people feel like they are part of something. People will always work harder if they feel like they belong and giving them real work to do makes them really feel like this is their cause too. It is incredibly hard to do this work on your own, having many hands makes things fun and friendly along the way. After your budget battle is done it is amazing to see the sense of accomplishment that teens have when they have been a part of saving their library.