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Mary Ghikas's picture

Strategic Framework and Enabling Strategies: Discussion Thread 1: Advocacy

Strategic Framework

     Strategic Initiatives


          Information Policy

          Professional and Leadership Development

     Enabling Strategies


  • Advocacy

ALA shall advocate the public value of librarians, libraries and information services and seek to:

  • Focus ALA’s mission and priorities working with the three constituencies:

      * ALA members;

      * libraries; and

      * the public.

  • Represent libraries and information providers at the local, state, federal and international levels while building support for libraries and librarians through public awareness.
  • Assure legislation and policies that support information and library services in all types of libraries and information environments.
  • Provide a vision of innovation, enable the future of libraries and promote libraries as centers of community engagement and participatory librarianship.
  • Promote ALA’s core values and emphasize the impact of libraries, as represented by ALA’s Declaration for the Right to Libraries, to form the basis for advocacy and community conversations.
Connie Williams's picture

make sure that advocacy is active, pro-active, widely dispersed and useful to constituents.

Connie Williams

Robert Banks's picture


Those are definitely aspirations for advocacy.  As a former member of the Committee on Library Advocacy, I'm very interested in hearing more of your thoughts.  I ask you to think about a time when you had a need for advocacy and didn't feel that information, tools, etc. from ALA were not available for your needs.  What would you recommend be in place to help you in that situation?  

Thanks for your involvement with these issues; it is a big help to ALA.

Rob Banks, ALA Executive Board

David King's picture

"Advocate the public value of librarians, libraries, etc" - Two thoughts here (that I hope are incorporated into action plans, goals, etc):

1. Advocate - I'd agree with Connie, it really needs to be pro-active. For example, legislation is mentioned. It's much more helpful to be "advocating" for libraries way before the legislation piece has started. Advocating after something goes awry in local or state legislature is too late.

2. This pro-active advocacy really needs a "non-librarian" touch to it. The usual librarian way to approach advocacy tends to be with mentions of "equality of access", "literacy", etc. Those are all great and all, but at a local (and probably a state) level, I think a business value needs to be strongly presented. Something about how the local economy goes up with an educated community, the value (in dollars and jobs and skills) the library provides, for "free," to the community, and the business/economic/etc impact this has.

I think focusing on those areas will help advocacy make more sense to local and state communities.

Susan Hubbs (non-member)'s picture

As ALA focuses on legislation and policies that support information and library services in all types of libraries, please advocate for mandatory certified school librarians for all public schools.  Most public school districts in Arizona have secretaries running their school libraries, with certified school librarians staffed only in high school libraries. This trend does not support enabling the future of libraries.  When school libraries are not staffed with professionally trained school librarians, they can not provide the academic program components unique to school libraries, and they become devalued.  Unfortunately, this mindset carries over to public libraries. 

Carol Heinsdorf's picture

My two concerns are these:

1.  Certified teacher librarians are not consistently recognized as teachers to qualify for repayment of government loans.  It is not right for those librarians affected by this inconsistency to have to ameliorate each situation alone, on a personal case-by-case basis. 

2.  Urban schools throughout the USA are being overtaken by corporate entities.  Resulting charter schools, in my experience, most frequently do not provide certified librarians managing school library resources.  Schools remaining under the direction of the local district shed certified librarians in the name of budget constraints.  The end result is that low-income students, most in need of the certified school librarians and well-resourced school libraries to support critical thinking and analysis, are without the same.  This is crippling for our children and a threat to our democracy over the long term.

Patricia Antrim (non-member)'s picture

Carol and all, I agree completely that we need to specifically include school librarians in the wording of this advocacy section. Not only are urban school librarians at risk, but also suburban and rural school librarians are losing their jobs as a result of budget decisions. What you describe about charter schools is certainly the case in my own state, Missouri. 


Connie Williams's picture

I've been working as a library advocate for many years.  In California, we've had some good things happen,  but like many legislative pieces, it all went away. When the money is good, we often get a little piece of the pie. But when it goes - we go first.   With Common Core coming and everyone talking about inquiry learning, and primary documents, and citing - we have a natural leadership role to play. But we have to be assertive, and present, and ahead of the curve in so many arenas.

What I've learned about advocacy is that 1- you have to be relentless; 2- you have to have lots of people involved in being relentless; 3-you have to make lots of people want to "fix" whatever it is that's broken; thus joining in the cause and making change happen because it just "has to" happen.

Pro-active at this point, IMHO includes reaching out to constituent groups like history, English, science, special ed, art and other teachers to want what librarians offer. It means really getting to parents with not just the information, but with the "goods" that they want their kids to have: solid teaching, plenty of books, library activities, etc. To want them enough to work to keep them in their schools; or to bring them back. 

It'd be cool to have librarians do things like:

-write articles for social studies, English, etc professional magazines; women's magazines and popular culture magazines
-present en mass at content conferences
-put on festivals that aren't "library" festivals; or be at them with our info & goods  [e.g. storytelling festivals, music festivals, etc]
-and to widely invite teachers, principals, etc. to come to our conferences and to make a "track" or other special activities there to make them welcome, and to show them the many things that we do...and create working partnerships [e.g. learning teams that go back to schools and try out new lesson ideas, etc]
-advertise some of the things being done in the library in magazines, etc.

And really, what I really want to do is to have a City bus advertisement campaign all across the U.S.  Beautiful signs on buses and taxicabs and the like proclaiming things like:  strong school libraries build strong students ; strong schools HAVE strong school libraries....  OR fabulous pictures of kids / teens with tag lines that say something like: 'do your kids have a librarian?"...  [I'm not very good at these kinds of slogans, but someone is!]... something to pique interest, to get parents questioning...and then, hopefully demanding that something be done about adding back librarians.

It's the relentless nature of advocacy that can easily burn us out, but it has to always be done. Everyone expects libraries to be there, and then when they're gone, for some reason they just get used to it. Hopefully, we can find a way to get that positive, active energy going again that says to everyone:  you need your librarian, you need those library [public and school] doors open... and then make it translate into: "Wow! I want my kids to have a school with a fully staffed library", "I want to be able to go to the library in the evening and not have it be closed" - Just sending out information isn't doing it - we need to be doing things that change minds and hearts...and then generates action.

Wow! I just went on and on.. hopefully it gets some more discussion going!  Thank you...