Library advocacy is the ongoing process of actively influencing decisions made about our libraries. It’s not something you do once, in response to one issue – it’s something that we should always be doing to improve the way that our libraries are seen by those who make decisions about them. Library advocacy often takes the form of campaigns, such as Library Lovers Day here in Australia. We’ve explored a range of campaigns that are run around the world in a previous discussion topic on Lobbying & Advocacy.
Advocacy is an important skill set for librarians, but one that is often overlooked. A recent review of library leadership training conducted by Arabella Advisors on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that few library leadership training programs teach advocacy skills. Several library associations run training programs on advocacy skills, or have resources on their website for members to use when advocating for their libraries. One example is Advocacy University from the American Library Association, a clearinghouse of advocacy tools about libraries in America.
Some of the methods that we’ve been looking at elsewhere in this topic are tools that can be used for advocacy. ILN Australian Ambassador Jenny Musty wanted to share with us the Victorian Public Libraries Dollars, Sense and Public Libraries report that was completed about three years ago. She says that it has been a fantastic advocacy tool and has been replicated in other economic benefit studies in Australia.
We sometimes think of advocacy as something that is only relevant to public libraries, but every library has someone outside the library making decisions about it. University libraries need to advocate to university governing bodies; school libraries need to advocate to school boards, parent groups, and education ministers; special libraries need to constantly ensure that the organisation’s senior executives understand the value of the library.
Does your library engage in any advocacy activities? Are there any activities that you feel would benefit your library?