Library Advocacy & Lobbying: The story of Rockdale Library (Australia)

For this discussion topic we’ve mostly focused on advocacy, however before we wrapped things up I wanted to share with you a story about lobbying from here in Sydney, Australia. This story is an interesting case because it blurs the lines between advocacy and lobbying, in which librarians and community members came together to help speak for the library staff who couldn’t speak for themselves.

In February 2013, ALIA, (the Australian Library and Information Association) put out a call to arms to librarians and library supporters in Sydney. They had been contacted by Rockdale Library who needed some support. Rockdale Library had been in temporary facilities for 30 years and the possibility of a new library was finally coming to a vote in their local government meeting. The tricky thing was the library staff were unable to speak on their own behalf at the meeting.

This is where the library community came in. Sue McKerracher (Executive Director of ALIA), and several other long time library supporters spoke passionately on behalf of Rockdale Library, and on behalf of libraries everywhere. Whilst the public gallery was filled with librarians and library supporters from both the local community and across Sydney. There was heated debate on the topic, but ultimately the swell of support worked, and the new library was approved, narrowly – just 7 votes against 6.

You can  read the full story in a 3 piece series by ALIA Sydney: an article before the meeting, just after and an update a year later and you can read the Storify of  Tweets from the meeting.

On a personal note, attending this council meeting, I was astonished to hear the creative ways the councillors found to say “I like libraries but…”, such as “the library is really important but I’m not sure we’re approaching this project in the right way.” It was as if they knew they couldn’t come out and say the library wasn’t important to them so they had to find excuses to not support it. This brought home to me, the vital importance of ongoing advocacy efforts, as you never know where the powers that be, will come looking for an excuse not to support your library. (Kate Byrne)

Have you taken part in local lobbying? How did it work out?

Any tips you would like to share?

Posted in Round 2 and tagged , , , , .


  1. Pingback: Discussion topic: Advocacy and lobbying | International Librarians Network

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