CPD23 Thing 16: Advocacy, Speaking Up for the Profession and Getting Published

Perhaps slightly controversially, I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of advocacy for public libraries. While I do believe strongly in the value of libraries in all sectors of society, and in particular public libraries, I sometimes find it difficult to believe that library advocacy has much power to influence government and council decisions. I have a great deal of respect for library campaigners who spend hours and days and months promoting their local library services, but a lot of the time it seems that all their efforts fall on deaf ears – because ultimately the local councils have already made up their minds to cut library services.

I am currently following the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign with great interest because this group has been granted a judicial review of Gloucestershire County Council’s plans to make severe cuts to its library services. The campaigners will be challenging the legality of these cuts in court later this month, and I really want them to be successful. If they do indeed manage to save their libraries through their tireless advocacy and campaigning, it would definitely restore my faith in the power and importance of public library advocacy.

I used to work in a public library and so I understand how important library services are to the local community. In my opinion, education is one of the most important building blocks of a successful society and as such I believe that provision must be made for people to educate themselves even when they are not members of educational institutions like colleges or Universities – public libraries can provide this service. I also believe that knowledge should be freely available and accessible for those who can’t afford it, whether this means books or an internet connection – and both of these are provided for free by public libraries.

The sector in which I currently work is Higher Education rather than public libraries but I believe that libraries are equally as important in this sector, albeit for slightly different reasons. I am a huge believer in the importance of information literacy skills and I think that the teaching of these skills should be embedded into the curriculum from school right through to University. In a world of information overload, it is increasingly important that people learn the skills necessary to sift, locate, organise, analyse and present information. Given that teachers and lecturers are, quite rightly, preoccupied with their own subject areas, I think that librarians are the ones who are best placed to teach these skills. My interest in librarianship stems from my interest in education and in helping students to learn how to navigate an increasingly complex information landscape. Librarians are there to help students understand that not all information is on Google, not all information is free, and not all information is reliable. As such, I feel that it’s very important to advocate for libraries and librarians in educational institutions.

Having said all this, I feel a little guilty because I haven’t had much opportunity to get involved in library advocacy so far in my career. I’m not sure if it really counts as advocacy, but last year I did volunteer to staff the library stall at our University’s Freshers’ Fair in order to advertise library services to students. We handed out lots of library flyers to new Freshers and marketed the use of library resources as something that would ultimately improve their degree results – which I think went down well! I hope to be able to do more to advocate library services in my next job, possibly by creating marketing materials which will promote the library to students, but also by building positive working relationships with the teachers or lecturers in order to encourage them to see librarians as skilled educators and to see the library as a provider of crucial information and resources.

Since I am a bit inexperienced in the area of library advocacy, I thought I would share this link to an interesting article which lists at length the many reasons that libraries are still important and relevant in the digital age – it’s full of convincing arguments which might prove useful for budding library advocates!

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4 Responses to CPD23 Thing 16: Advocacy, Speaking Up for the Profession and Getting Published

  1. Thank you for you support but I must admit I am feeling a bit blue after reading this. Whether FoGL win or not I really think we have done a lot to raise the profile of libraries and have given people the chance to say how important libraries are to them where they did not have the chance before. I happen to think that if you believe in something enough it is worth speaking up for even if the fight seems un-winnable. We have also made other authorities pause and think about what they are doing before they make cuts, we have secured a reprieve for one of our libraries, secured extra funding for others, and hundreds of people attended library events for a day of promotion in February – and this was before the legal challenge began. I think it has already done some good. We would have got a lot further I think if people believed we could make change happen and joined us instead of waiting to see how far we got before their faith was restored. I do not mean this as a personal comment directed at you but I have heard this a lot from people and just wish so much they would realise that by then it may be too late. The more voices, the sooner, the better I reckon! 🙂

    Johanna

    Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

    • Hi Jo

      Sorry for making you feel blue, it was not my intention! I agree that FoGL have done a huge amount to raise the profile of libraries and I think that’s really positive. But I’ve also been following all your frustrated comments on Twitter when it seemed that little progress was being made, despite all your efforts, and I really share that frustration. This frustration extends beyond libraries for me and includes all the other protests against cuts or increased student fees which the government has cheerfully ignored. I can’t help but feel a sense of powerlessness in the face of it all. However, I very much admire people like you who keep fighting even though the fight seems impossible sometimes. I definitely aspire to be this sort of person, rather than someone who gets beaten down in the face of tough opposition. In all honesty, I think that you and the other campaigners are an inspiration to a lot of people 🙂

      • Hello, I am sorry. I have only just seen your reply. Thank you for your lovely comments. It does often feel like we are not getting anywhere but when I do stop and think about what we have achieved (although not as much as we should I admit) I think that we have come a long way. I am sorry if I have put anyone off with my tweets but I can’t lie, it is not easy. I think that is what the government, both central and local, are banking on.. people thinking there is no point. I am glad I have tried though and as I say on my blog I have learnt so many skills and had so many valuable experiences along the way that I still say it is worth it.

  2. calonlanu3a says:

    Jennifer, I am using 23things tools and a wordpress account created for one of the Things courses to help promote a local branch library. I would not have had the time to support the campaign to save the libraries under review when working full time but like you, I began my career in public libraries and in “retirement” can do library advocacy.
    Friends Groups such as FOCAL can engage with Parish, District and County Councillors and can get articles published in community magazines. In the case of our county the profiles of the library service has been raised and libraries which were under review are having issue terminals installed in the autumn, a” good thing”
    Suzan

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