Advocacy Tips

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1. Over time, every librarian is approached by patrons who really love the library and who offer to help out, should you ever need them. Can you list a dozen? Call on them when you need someone to tell the mayor just how important your library is!

2. It's easy to think only about your library and to forget that you are a part of the community too. When your patrons need products, do you refer them to local stores, and suggest that they tell merchants they were sent by the library? Does your Chamber of Commerce know about all the folks who come into town to use the library, and who do their shopping at the same time?

3. Corporate libraries often maintain lists of "key customers" (corporate officers, department heads, and the like). They keep track of what these "key customers" are currently doing, and try to supply them with needed information even before it is requested. Have you considered treating your city council or village board as "key customers" and trying to meet their information needs in the same way? This might really enhance the image of your library in the eyes of your community leaders.

4. Sometimes elected officials need to be encouraged by the public to be responsive to library needs. Many libraries maintain advocacy lists of volunteers to help out with this process. Basically, this is just a signup sheet in your library which enables patrons to "request that the library provide them with information and call on them in times of need." The key is to get the customer to ask to be called upon. Always be sure to get email addresses, as telephone calling takes too long and regular mail is too expensive. 

5. No one wants to be accused of illegally attempting to tamper with political processes. You should never advocate for one candidate over another in an election on library time or with library resources under any circumstances. If there is an important issue (such as your budget) on the table, you should not directly ask citizens to support your cause, but should instead invite them to "make their views known" and provide them with information as to what public officials to call and how to do so. The right choice of words can keep you out of trouble but still get you the support you need.

6. Before your referendum, you'd really like to hand out buttons saying "Vote yes for the new library", but don't want to be accused of any questionable campaign activity. A good way to get around this is to have those buttons paid for out of private donations, especially donations given specifically for the purposes of advocacy. Even better, the project should be run through your friends group, or through a special independent citizen's committee. These alternatives get the job done, but keep you out of trouble at the same time.

7. If you want your newspaper, radio, and/or TV station to take an interest in your library at budget time, then you need to build a good relationship with them on a year round basis. Do you write a  weekly column for your local paper? How about issuing press releases whenever you have something interesting going on? It's hard to fill up a newspaper or a newscast every day. If you do your part to help, you are a lot more likely to get coverage when you need it.

Provided by Peter Hamon

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