Rudai 23, Thing 15: Advocacy for libraries

A

Image from Gary Green, Josh Filhol and Andrew Walsh of

The Library A to Z: the Kickstarter Project. (CC BY 4.0)

“A is for access, advice, answers, archives, art…astronomy, audio books, author events.”  The library A to Z.

A is also for advocacy.  That vital activity that is shared by all who love libraries. In fact, if you’re reading this and you’re an admirer of all things library, did you know that you can affect the opinion of everyone you meet to support, visit or become involved in their local library, if you constantly, yes constantly, advocate for libraries. In my opinion, the responsibility for advocacy begins with each person working in a library, in every task they perform for their users. It’s not merely a task for the select few.

The onus also lies on each user to advocate, and not to leave it to others. Leaders, stakeholders and decision makers can destroy or secure a library’s future, but their opinions can be swayed by voices FOR libraries.

“We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”   Neil Gaiman, author of The View from the Cheap Seats.

What is library advocacy? It is aptly defined on the website of the ‘Turning the Page‘ organisation, who offer training materials on library advocacy:

“The actions individuals or organizations undertake to influence decision-making at the local, regional, state, national, and international level that help create a desired funding or policy change in support of public libraries.”

Is it ignorance or pure misinformation that cause many to say “Why study for librarianship?” or “Libraries are dying. It’s all on the internet now, we don’t need libraries any longer, much less librarians.” How many times in the last 5 years didn’t I hear this when people heard the subject of my studies. Eventually I stopped going red with fury, and began to feel elated *rubs hands together with glee* for another chance to ‘educate’ someone. 😉

Fortunately in some countries there is heavy investment in state-of-the-art libraries of the future. In the UK, though, there is clearly something wrong.  If it is true that library use is declining in that country, then surely libraries are not offering what their communities want?  The knee-jerk reaction of the previous government was to close many. A crying shame!

So let’s get advocating to avoid the pitfall that the UK finds itself in – one where some are under the impression that it’s too costly an expense for a service no longer needed – sadly developing a blindness for the potential future of libraries.  Here’s hoping the new Prime Minister will amend that quickly.

The writer of Rudai23 Thing 15 provides many links to different advocacy campaigns. One I really enjoyed was for The Library A to Z, as I envisioned using their materials in the museum library. The resources on offer from The Library Campaign are noteworthy. As is this poster designed by Sarah McIntyre, available for protests and campaigns…

super_librarian_poster

Advocacy can take on different forms and use different methods.  Social media is a ready-made platform for advocacy.  Here are some great Instagram library accounts to follow for ideas: The New York Public Library, Gympie Regional Libraries in Australia, and the Prince William Public Libraries in Virginia, USA.  Twitter is also a wonderful forum for advocacy inspiration. Public Libraries 2020 (EU), Bredebieb (Netherlands) and Ian Anstice (UK) are just a few accounts for ideas. Then there’s those super librarians mentioned in an earlier blog post, who regularly tweet ideas and activities.

Recently I was part of a discussion on how to increase user stats in the museum library where I volunteer. We decided we would like to suggest placing fun signs that point to the library wing and have the info desk hand out brochures enticing people to visit the library after their museum visit. The museum has also just begun to plan a scavenger hunt that incorporates the library, and the library manager has collaborated with the museum to offer library tours on demand.  Using the idea from Thing 14 on Augmented Reality (AR), I had also thought of creating some iPad excitement with AR for children visiting the children’s corner.  I used the Aurasma app and the letters from ‘Libraries A to Z’, to make up an example of  an advocacy campaign.  Since I am not able to insert an MP4 video into this blog (would need to upgrade), here is a still from the ‘C is for children who come to meet the library dinosaur’.  (The dino rears up on hindquarters and roars.  I was totally thrilled at the action.)

screen grab of video

This could be taken one step further: the museum has a camel mascot in its children’s booklets, named Jamila.  A great AR image would be a video of a camel across a still of the library, purportedly showing Jamila browsing and telling children how fun it is to visit. 😀

Camels
Hey guys! We’re almost at the library.

Camels by Shinya Ichinohe on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The advocacy resulting from these ideas could only benefit the library’s use, as people would be encouraged to tell others. Library staff could Tweet, Snapchat and post on Facebook. Local news magazines/newspapers could be invited to periodically cover activities.

Until next time, when we discuss collaboration tools.  Thanks again, for stopping by. 🙂

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