Bite-sized Advocacy, Part 1: Take Time to Plan

Anna Shelton /

Those of us living in the smoky western United States this summer are keenly aware of the tremendous resources it takes to manage and respond to a fire. In libraries, situations arise every day that—like fires—require intense focus and quick response depending on an ever-changing set of complex factors. A single hour in the life of a library staff member can whipsaw between helping a library user with their e-reader, responding to a public safety situation in the parking lot, answering a research question from a local non-profit by phone, and finalizing details for an upcoming community event. In the average action-packed shift, it’s hard to carve out time for anything beyond responding to urgent needs.

But just as fire management professionals must make time to plan, even in the height of wildfire season, it’s critical for library staff teams to divert some time from fighting fires to plan together for the future. Something as small as a 30-minute team discussion during a staff meeting each month can make a big difference. This bite-sized, persistent approach can help you effectively tackle big topics like library advocacy and help increase library awareness in your community.

There are many great tools to help you create your own library awareness campaign in our new section Advocacy in Action, and complimentary resources are available in the recently released, updated curriculum Turning the Page: Supporting Libraries, Strengthening Communities. In this series, we’ll outline ideas to divide this rich content into manageable chunks that could be fit into regular staff meetings. We suggest you start by helping get everyone on the same page and excited about advocacy:

  • Take time to build staff understanding about advocacy. Advocacy is about creating change to the status quo, and it’s something that public libraries around the world are grappling with. To start the conversation, you could share this short video defining advocacy.
  • Get inspired by what libraries have achieved through advocacy. To hear about a campaign that increased local awareness about the Herrick District Library in Michigan, watch this video (scroll partway down the page). Listen to a story about Kent District Library’s work to educate the community about an upcoming millage in a recent webinar (login and listen to the archive from 14:07 – 19:00 for Lance’s story).
  • Talk about your own library’s advocacy goals. Maybe you want to increase the number of people using the library; or perhaps there is a levy to fund the library on the ballot next year; maybe you have a library card drive in a few months. If you haven’t yet decided on a goal, you could brainstorm goals together, exploring these resources from Turning the Page about defining advocacy and developing an advocacy goal.
  • In order to feel confident advocating on behalf of the library, staff need to feel proud of how their work at the library directly contributes to make the community better. List stories from your own library of personal transformations thanks to the library's efforts – someone who landed a job using library computers or earned their GED through your library’s internet.  For more creative activities to get your colleagues thinking about the importance of their work, see the ideas included in the value of the public library component of Turning the Page.

It will probably take a few conversations, but it’s critical to have a shared understanding of what you want to accomplish in your own library campaign, and why it’s important. Once you believe in the power of your library and your advocacy effort, others will too.