In the U.S. advocacy is a huge deal right now. Not only is the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services being defunded again in the FY 2019 budget request from the U.S. President, books around the country are being challenged, and recent articles have uncovered the vast lists of books forbidden to prison inmates. Needless to say, advocacy for and in libraries is a very hot topic in the U.S., and indeed around the world right now. In the UK, many public libraries are being forced to close, or are now being run by volunteers. The impact of policy decisions made now will be felt years into the future. So what can we do? Advocate. Advocate for more programs, better facilities, more resources, and for more librarians. A recent article by the head of the Wikipedia Library outlined what the library of the future could be. Policymakers should read that document to inform their decisions. Information science school directors should read that article to better prepare the information professionals of the future. Most importantly, librarians and information professionals should read it to know that we have support. Many people care about libraries, and many people need to act to support libraries in the years to come. That’s where advocacy and outreach enters the equation.
Librarians and their supporters need to not only advocate for libraries, but teach others to do so as well. And they cannot just advocate when budget proposals are released or laws are made, they must act every day of every year. How? Share stories, plan events, and be active on social media all year, every year. However, advocacy must occur offline as well. Supporters need to show up at town and council meetings with hard facts and real stories to show just how important libraries are to their communities. People must be proactive before votes are taken, instead of trying to repeal decisions. Most importantly, libraries across the globe should be united and vocally support each other. Large libraries should support and promote small libraries, academic libraries should advocate for public libraries. Indeed one twitter account that sets an example for this idea is called @52museums. Every week a different museum takes over the twitter to tweet about exhibits and programs. Perhaps a @52libraries account could be a new way of all libraries advocating for each other.
If there is anything I have learned from working in libraries and being a part of a library association, it is that libraries never stop advocating for access to information, more funding for programs, better facilities, and a whole host of other issues. As soon as one issue is solved, another comes about. However, libraries are resilient. After all, if Google cannot replace libraries and librarians, nothing can.
Note: This Thing is a reflection on Rudai 23’s Thing 20, which lists some really awesome resources at the bottom of the page. Use them to learn about library advocacy and create action plans to advocate for your local library!