Like many of you, I’ve been thrilled to see the amazing amount of positive attention libraries of all types have been receiving in the media recently.’ ‘  Librarians across the country are using this media attention as a springboard for advocating and spreading the word about what an asset libraries and librarians are to their communities.’  And it seems so much easier to step into the role of advocate,’  particularly with legislators and decision-makers, when you’ve got a recent newspaper or TV report featuring lots of people proclaiming their love of libraries in your hands!’  But what about translating these statements of support and appreciation from the people we serve into action?’  What about recruiting individuals outside of the Library community to advocate with us and for us?

You don’t have to look far for an example of how powerful it can be when community members step up and take ownership of Library advocacy.’  Not too long ago a group of Spokane Moms proved that a focused and dedicated group of community members can make a huge impact.’  Efforts on behalf of libraries undertaken by non-library staff can take advocacy efforts to a higher level – a level that grabs the attention of politicians and community leaders.’  So how do you recruit for results when it comes to advocacy?

Simple ways Recruit Advocates:

  • Make a list of possible target audiences.’  What individuals or groups come to your library on a regular basis?’  Who do you have a long standing relationship with among your customer base?’  Youth services librarians are often in a particularly unique position when it comes to knowing customers on a personal basis.
  • Think about how to “build a foundation” for advocacy for your customers.’  How much do your dedicated customers really know about your situation and the services you provide?’  How can you educate them?’  Start by always emphasizing the great services you offer that are well-known or that a particular customer uses and then mention other helpful services in order to raise awareness of all the Library is providing to the community.
  • Be honest with customers.’  Right now a lot of customers, particularly those that know and care about staff members, are asking, things like, “gosh, how is the Library doing in these tough times?”‘  Be ready with an answer and don’t necessarily sugarcoat it!’  No reason to alarm anyone but be honest that the Library relies on public support to make sure we have the resources we need to do our work.
  • Have a 30 second “advocacy update” ready to deliver whenever the opportunity presents itself.’  Consider starting a program, particularly if you are working with teachers, adults or regular teen customers like a Teen Advisory Council, with a brief statement letting everyone know the state of the Library’s funding or any new service you are offering.

We know our customers love the Library and that, especially for teens, Library staff can be some of the most important, reliable people in our customers lives.’  Don’t miss the opportunity to provide these customers the tools they need to support something they love.’  You owe it to them and to the Library!

About Paula Brehm Heeger

Past-President of YALSA (President, 2007-2008) and current member of the YALSA Board of Directors (2006-2009). Past YALSA Committee Chair positions include Partnerships Advocating for Teens (PAT), TAGS, Intellectual Freedom; Past ALSC Chair positions include Notable Children's Videos; Contributing author to upcoming "Quick and Popular Reads" (ALA Editions, forthcoming)

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