April 23, 2018

360° Advocacy: Engage Stakeholders in What Libraries Really Deliver | Editorial

Do your stakeholders know what your library does for them? In the United States, libraries are under unprecedented threat, and the response from advocates has been tremendous. As the 2018 federal budget, with its dark promise to shut down the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as well as other key federal bodies, makes its way through the House and Senate, advocates have been moving the needle, with waves of activity intended to compel the right decision-makers at the right time.

For those not in the trenches, however, it can be difficult to know when and how to engage. LJ’s feature package “Be Heard: Advocacy in Action” gives a full update on efforts from several fronts and offers a time line to prepare your own activities and raise awareness in your circles for the key moments ahead.

In an effort to help, we also offer a tool you can use—literally—in your community. “What Would You Lose?” That’s the question the
poster folded into this issue asks. (See PDF download at libraryjournal.com/BeHeardPoster.) The word cloud in the illustration is informed by the top state programs enabled by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) federal funding to libraries, based on the states’ reports to IMLS. The poster, made possible thanks to the support of Gale, indicates the widespread risk to the services real patrons use and the things they do every day in libraries nationwide and provides information on how to take action for those motivated to find out more. We hope library advocates will put these posters to use in their libraries, where appropriate, and in their communities at large.

Most important, as the field faces this challenge it is also recognizing the underlying need to illustrate better how libraries impact individuals’ lives. It’s critical to convey that more effectively to the public and to policymakers while connecting that impact to their goals. The smart expression of that impact applies to all advocacy, from the hyperlocal to local, state, federal, and global. What better case to make than to show that libraries matter at every level because they help regular folks, and, hence, political leaders, to achieve goals at every level.

Look no further than the new Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report launched in July. This initiative, from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School, articulates how libraries play a critical role in fulfilling the promise of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It’s empowering to reflect on the connections to these aims through a local lens and see all the ways in which library influence scales down as well as up. That perspective, too, is fuel for your fight, at whatever point you are fighting it.

Libraries have 360° significance and require 360° advocacy. The time is now to engage the public and politicians in what libraries deliver and make that message count.

This article was published in Library Journal's August 1, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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