Tag Archives: communications

The 10-Minute International Librarian #73: Think of a communications tool that works well on you

Communication is an important part of impact.

It allows us to engage more effectively, both with users and with the decision-makers who determine the future of our institutions and profession.

Improving our ability to talk about what we do and why it matters is therefore essential.

Fortunately, it’s also an area where there is plenty of experience and inspiration out there.

From advertising to political campaigning, and from education to public information, we come across good – and potentially bad – communications all of the time.

Crucially, we can be reflective. Given that we are the target of so much communication ourselves, each of us can bring to the table our own experience of what is most effective, and draw on this in our work.

So for our 73rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think of a communications tool that works well on you.

What have other people done that made you pay attention, better understand an issue, or even change your mind?

Was there a specific tool, approach, or format that made thus communication more effective?

Is this something that you can do in your own work to communicate the value of your work?

Let us know about what you have learnt from others about communication in the comments box below.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 4.4: Increase our visibility through excellent and innovative communications

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #59: Think how you can amplify your voice

If decision-makers are to make choices that favour libraries, it’s important that they know about you.

It is a cliché, but often it will be those who shout the loudest who gain the most attention!

Of course, you need to be smart about your work to advocate for libraries.

You should ensure that your arguments are based on fact, and avoid exaggeration.

But our institutions have a strong case to make, and one that’s worth being heard!

We’ve already had a few exercises about the possibility of working with partners who can speak up for you (exercises #5#18#24).

But you, based on your understanding of where you live and work, will have an idea of what works best.

So for our 59th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think how you can amplify your voice.

How do other people involved in advocacy manage to do it? What is the most successful advocacy effort you are aware of?

What options do you have to reach out, effectively, both to decision-makers and to the people that influence them?

Let us know the most original way you have used for ensuring that the voice of libraries is heard!

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 1.3: Work with library associations and libraries to identify key legal and funding challenges to their work, and advocate for action.

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below.

Dreamers and Schemers: a simple recipe for library advocacy

Studies of human behaviour are often characterised by a distinction between idealism and realism, between emotion and logic, or between the heart and the head.

Some decisions and actions we see as being driven by instinct, optimism or by a broader sense of values, while others seem to come down to cold, hard rationality.

A Nobel Prize for Economics went to Daniel Kahneman for his work on the difference between choices made rapidly, based on feelings, and those made after deep consideration.

International relations also traditionally differentiates between realists (who argue that countries follow their own interests and use their power freely) and idealism (who argue that states promote their domestic values in their international activities).

How does this relate to library advocacy?

Previous blogs, notably in partnership with OCLC’s WebJunction, have explored the idea of how a range of individual strengths (described as personality types) can come together in order to make for effective advocacy.

At a simpler level, however, we can see library advocacy as requiring a combination of idealism and realism in order to achieve its goals. In other words – as set out in the title of this blog – we need both dreamers and schemers in order to succeed.

Why we need dreamers?

Idealism remains a powerful motivator of action. Fortunately, libraries tend to have this in abundance!

Our institutions are strongly based on values – the importance of equitable access to information, of service to all, of safeguarding heritage for the future, all without the motivation of profit or private gain.

Where these values – and the budgets needed to deliver on them – have been challenged, libraries have become stronger and stronger in defending them.

We have produced communications materials, brought together stories and examples of how libraries contribute to development and other community goals, and build networks of friends and supporters.

Work based on idealism helps to create a positive feeling around libraries, raising interest among decision-makers and voters alike. Even in less democratic systems, those in power often rely on the support of the people for legitimacy, and so will care about what they feel.

Done effectively, it also helps make the step from sympathy to active support among – something that is crucial if libraries are to benefit from the funding and laws they need.

Why we need schemers?

However, idealism does not always solve everything. The fact of acting in the public interest, or delivering on well acknowledged values, is not necessarily enough to bring about adequate funding or favourable reforms to libraries. Understandably, this can be disheartening.

However, we can respond by complementing idealism with a dose of realpolitik. We need to be both dreamers and schemers.

Sometimes, it’s a question of knowing where, when, how, and to whom to make your points most effectively.

For example, a campaign in favour of libraries in the months before a key decision is taken is clearly more useful than one just after.

The answer is to build up your understanding of how decisions are taken, and ideally your relationships with key people involved in the process. If you look, you may well find someone who feels warmly about libraries, and so who can help you. In turn, their advice and insights can help you increase the impact of your work.

There is also the reality that decisions to support additional funding, or favourable laws for libraries, are not always simple. There can be opposition, for example from those resistant to spending in general, other potential beneficiaries of money, or those who feel that better laws for libraries will disadvantage them.

This opposition can be based on values, or simply on concern about profit margins. It is important to think about the arguments that can be made against stronger support for libraires, and how you can counter these.

Of course, in doing so, it is usually best to avoid looking like you do not care about the views of others. Decision-makers often want to avoid ‘picking sides’ in order not to lose support. However, you can usually make progress by showing that supporting libraries brings benefits for all.


As highlighted earlier in this blog, libraries are often already strong when it comes to being ‘dreamers’. We know that our work is based on values, service, and the wider public interest, and are becoming better and better at articulating this.

A key area of development is therefore around how also to become ‘schemers’ – how to understand the processes that lead to decisions being taken about libraries, and how to influence them most effectively.

This is far from the world of pure private lobbying, centred on how to maximise profits for a particular sector (or its shareholders). Throughout libraries’ engagement in decision-making, our values can and should shine through – this is what sets us apart.


In short, we need both to be dreamers and schemers in order to make the best and most effective case for libraries into the future.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #43: Think about your brand

Libraries traditionally benefit from a largely positive public opinion.

However, general warmth about libraries as an idea is not the same thing as a clear impression of why our institutions matter so much.

Ensuring that people know clearly what they gain from having libraries – and what they would miss if they didn’t – can help not only in your own local situation, but also more broadly.

This is what marketers seek to do when they try to build up a brand around their company or product, ensuring that it stands out and gets noticed.

They work hard to understand what people think about them, and to shape these reactions through advertising and other forms of communication.

So for our 43rd 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about your brand.

What impression do your users have of your library? What words would they use to describe it?

And what impression do you want your users and community to have of you?

You can use your ideas subsequently to think about how you can communicate your work.

Let us know your most effective ways of ensuring positive perceptions of libraries in the comments box below, and check out the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section for more ideas.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 4.4 Increase our visibility through excellent and innovative communications.

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #36: Think of a new communications tool you can use!

The pandemic has forced so many of us to think differently about communications.

Traditional means of getting messages across – notice-boards or in-person conferences – have become less effective during lockdowns.

Meanwhile digital tools have become ever more dominant, although with the volume of information available, it has arguably become harder to get noticed.

Yet for potential users to know about the services that libraries – and library associations – provide, it is vital to think about how we can do this most effectively. From newsletters (electronic and physical) to different social media platforms or e-mail, there are plenty of options out there.

So for our 36th 10-Minute Library Advocate, think of a new communications tool you can use!

Write down which tools you use currently, both physical and digital. Which audiences do they reach? What sort of message do they allow you to send? What benefits do they offer you and your users?

Then think about what gaps you might have and how new tools might allow you fill them! And also whether existing communications tools may not be having the impact you want.

You don’t need to do everything, and of course you know your users best. Focus on what could work best for you!

Let us know in the comments below which tools you have recently adopted, and are working well for you.

Good luck!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! Key Initiative 4.4: Increase our visibility through excellent and innovative communications.

You can view all of our ideas using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box.

10 Ways to Improve your Advocacy Capacity from Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many proofs of how much libraries matter for their communities.

We have seen high demand for services and resources online and by phone, regrets shared by users about not being able to visit in person, libraries stepping up to help people access the internet or sign up for government support.

All paint a picture of a sector that has a strong focus on public service, and the resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness to deliver in difficult times. As set out, for example, in Nick Poole’s blog about the future of public libraries, we have a powerful story to tell, and an opportunity to build a new narrative and model that reinforces and guarantees the place of libraries of all types in society.

Yet the difficult times are not necessarily over, with the loss of tax revenue, and stimulus packages launched in many countries likely to lead to cuts in spending in future in order to keep debt under control.

We will need to be as ready as ever to promote a narrative of libraries as cornerstones of literate, informed and participatory societies.

Fortunately, we do not need to wait for restrictions on movement to be lifted to start. There is so much we can do from home! Here are just ten ideas, connected to our advocacy capacities grid, and drawing on our 10-Minute Library Advocate series for improving your readiness.

  1. Build your team: it is perhaps a cliché, but the more you can share responsibilities, the further you can go. Having a group of people ready to get involved both means that even if you’re busy, someone else can take up tasks. Moreover, you can bring together people with different skills in order to do everything from tacking laws and gathering evidence to public speaking and lobbying.
  2. Find out who’s in charge, and do your research: you’ll need to know who is responsible for key decisions about support for libraries. There may be different players or agencies at work – not just in the culture, education or research field, but also those in charge of finance. Try to work out who matters, and do your background research in order to understand what they care about.
  3. Find out what the process is: in every system, there will be a procedure to be followed for taking decisions about whether to support libraries or not. This may be more or less long, and more or less formal of course. However, if you want to influence decisions, it’s worth trying to understand when and how you can provide input most effectively!
  4. Find out where you can access information: linked to the process question, you may also need to be able to react quickly to consultations or proposals. Even if these are public, they may not be easy to find or follow, or only certain groups will be asked proactively for views. Get to know portals where relevant information is posted.
  5. Identify other players who matter: you don’t need to limit your focus to ministers, senior officials or equivalents. Think about which other actors can influence decisions. This could be members of parliaments or local councils, journalists, think tanks or others. They can all be potentially useful contacts for you.
  6. Identify potential partners: it’s not only librarians who think that libraries are important! Indeed, calls for support for our institutions can even be more powerful coming from other groups, such as educators, advocates for access to information, or organisations representing groups which depend a lot on us (researchers, parents, people experiencing homelessness). Think about who is active and with whom you could work.
  7. Gather your stories: to back up your narrative, it is important to be able to provide evidence of why libraries need action from decision-makers. For a lot of people, bringing things to the human level is a powerful way of making them feel real and necessary. Reflect on your own experience, and look through past media coverage to see what you can use. You can also draw on the SDG Stories on IFLA’s Library Map of the World.
  8. Gather your data: in parallel with evidence that brings out the ‘human’ angle, it can also be effective to show at a more ‘macro’ level what libraries are doing. Clearly a lot of the work of libraries is felt in ways that are difficult to measure, especially at the level of entire countries or regions. However, making sure you have key data about numbers of libraries, staff, and users can back up your arguments. Use data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World and Library Stat of the Week to help.
  9. Define your messages: to be effective in your advocacy, you will need to be clear. Both politicians and others are busy, and likely will only be able to remember a few short points or arguments. So based on what you want to say – and what you think your audience wants to hear – work hard to condense your message to make it as short and powerful as possible!
  10. Present your materials: Once you have your messages, your materials and your audiences defined, take a moment to think about how you are going to communicate what you’re doing. Make things visually attractive if possible – pictures can be a great way of grabbing attention on social media for example, while ensure that documents you present are written presented in a way that makes them easy to read and understand.

Good luck!

The 10-Minute Library Advocate #18: Find and Use Hashtags and Handles on Social Media

10 Minute Library Advocate - Find and use hashtags and handles on social mediaAdvocacy is about getting attention.

You can produce great ideas, messages and materials, but how to ensure that you are heard?

Especially on social media many accounts get few followers. Even popular ones don’t always reach the people that matter.

It is possible to target what you’re doing on social media.

You can also make sure that your message appears when people are following key debates.

So for our eighteenth 10-Minute Library Advocate exercise, find and use relevant hashtags and handles.

Look on key social networks for the you’re aiming for, and write down their handles (for example @library_minister) or the hashtags used in impotrant discussions (for example #GlobalGoals).

By using these, you can ensure that your target audience – politicians, influencers, journalists – are notified about your messages.

You can also get your posts included in search results on popular topics.

Good luck!


See the introduction and previous posts in our 10-Minute Library Advocate series and join the discussion in social media using the #EveryLibrarianAnAdvocate hashtag!