I’d like to reveal an important lesson that all librarians need to understand by telling a story that opened my eyes to the power of libraries and of librarians. There are a number of lessons to be learned from this story, but most important may be the realization that we can’t keep underestimating our community’s respect and love for what we provide them.
Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’
Jessica Yu’s “Garden of the Lost and Abandoned” tracks the work of Gladys Kalibbala, a Ugandan reporter whose weekly column on missing children works to reunite her subjects with their families. Equal parts detective, social worker, and child advocate, Kalibbala hunts down the origin of each child’s story, working tirelessly to find a solution for each child’s predicament. Yu brings her skills as a documentary filmmaker (she won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien”) to bring Kalibballa’s story to life. While “Garden of Lost and Abandoned” is her first book, it has been met with rapturous praise. Kirkus Reviews called it “an eloquent affirmation of the vast capacity of the human heart,” while Amazon selected it as one of its Best Books of the Month: Nonfiction. Yu spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on November 6th, 2017.
Despite increased library usage, libraries are still not allocated budgets representative of their community impact. How can libraries best demonstrate the return on investment taxpayers receive for each tax dollar spent as well as the social benefit and impact of library services?
National Library Legislative Days are scheduled for May 2–3, 2016. If you have plans to travel to Washington, DC, that’s terrific! If such a trip isn’t in your budget or doesn’t seem worth your time—we have a solution tailored for you.
“Almost one thousand people in this country die each day from smoking-related illnesses. Imagine it. That’s as if two fully loaded jumbo jets collided over your hometown every day and everyone aboard was killed. . . ” Authors Karen Berg and Andrew Gilman write about “selling points” in the book Get to the Point. This selling point was created to paint a picture of how many people die from smoking every day. The selling point is striking and I can’t imagine you could forget the image. The library has plenty of great stories, touchy-feely and full of “awww.” I have to tell you, those stories don’t always resonate with me or politicians. They want results. They want to know the return on investment.
Whether you’re helping a senior citizen use a tablet for the first time or helping a fifth grader with a research report, your library is doing amazing work every day. But does your community know it? And how can you tell your library’s story to increase public support?
For me, the discussion raised another issue: is the library’s obligation to the existing demographics of the community or to a more diversified perspective? Specifically, consider collection development, programming, and displays. Should we offer only that which applies to our known community’s demographics? Or should we try to broaden outlooks and horizons? Many times our decisions in these areas are shaped by our users. We might put up a holiday display because we believe our community expects or supports that perspective. But are we sure? Should we, in fact, be displaying alternative views as part of an obligation to support lifelong learning? Would we draw more users if we expanded beyond our perceived local culture? Is this not part of obligation, also? While it may be easy to say we should do both–support our community’s demographics and expand on the status quo–the finances and/or politics of many libraries may not allow for such a broad spectrum of activities or materials.
A new evidence-based perspective on evaluating the advocacy efforts of public libraries is being developed. By drawing on research from other disciplines and the latest studies on libraries, a set of advocacy best practices is emerging. Findings show that building strong relationships with funding decision-makers and other related tactics of interpersonal influence could be important advocacy tools.
In today’s environment, it’s hard to figure out how to create buzz for your library. Every day libraries face serious issues such as budget cuts, reduced staffing, and privatization. It is stating the obvious to say that the profession is greatly changing. However, there is a new way for libraries to get the message out about what they do and why they do it.
“The Political Librarian” is slated to be EveryLibrary’s venue and platform for the advocacy work they do. Their motto is “Any library initiative anywhere matters to every library everywhere.” Everylibrary trains, coaches, and consults library stakeholders and supporters to increase civic awareness to win campaigns and funding at the local level for libraries.
Public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries provide Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and incomes with access to “unlimited possibilities.” The State of America’s Libraries 2015: A Report from the American Library Association recognizes American libraries as “community anchor institutions” whose missions include economic benefits—as well as creating a more democratic, just, and equitable society.
Contests in the library can be an easy, high return way to collect anecdotes about library use from the community. This information can be used to influence decision-makers by putting a relatable face on usage data.
Big data is everywhere and patrons are increasingly turning to libraries to learn not only what it is, but how it can help their businesses. And just as businesses use big data to target their customers and generate more sales, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) saw an opportunity to better determine how to best deliver relevant content to its users by implementing big data. Their experience is one that could well help other public libraries leverage all their data to best serve patron needs.
Are you looking for an opportunity to advocate for public libraries? Do you feel strongly about national library funding? Take advantage of National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) on May 4th and 5th. Join your voice with other library advocates.
My favorite library conference tchotchke of all time is a button I received from the PLA membership booth several years ago. It reads, “Ask me why I love my job!” Considering the fact that I would have proudly worn that button the first day I started working in a public library thirty-two years ago and would still do so today makes me feel very fortunate. Of course those who dare to ask the question need to be prepared to cut me off at some point (luckily for you, there’s an end to this column).