Tag Archives: advocacy

The municipality/local council as a partner, the library as an entrepreneur







Guest Blogger: Erna Winters, director Public Library Kennemerwaard, member of the Executive Committee at EBLIDA

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when stories and imagination still ruled, deep into the 20th century, the world was still full of great expectations…. That was a time when local politicians were proud of their library. It was a time in which politicians believed in a better world for all, and that libraries and librarians were key partners to make these dreams come true.

Now, in the second decennium of the 21st century, we’re living in different times; times of hardship, budget cuts, nightmare years. Why has the view of politicians changed so much, why do they no longer feel that the library belongs to them and to the community? Do they really feel that the library is obsolete?

I was once told that the best time to start with advocacy was yesterday, the second best time is today. I would like to share some thoughts on advocacy with you.

  1. Make it a continuous process, not just at election time or at budget time.
  2. Take advocacy in a broad view: enhance and emphasize the added value of the library.
  3. Make yourself known, make it personal (get to know the local politicians, and make sure that they know you and your key staff members).
  4. Don’t just ask, give as well. Send them invitations to interesting activities, give them the floor if you have something to celebrate.
  5. Emphasize the value of the library instead of focussing on the costs (they can do that perfectly well by themselves).
  6. Invite newly elected local politicians for a welcome visit. Tell them about all the good work that you’re doing and show them around.
  7. Whenever there is a debate concerning the library or subsidies/budgets in the city council, be there and be seen (or heard if possible).
  8. If you plan to speak at/to the council, make sure that you inform your alderman (no surprises).
  9. Inform a new alderman, give him/her your strategic plan, key facts etc. Give him/her a tour of the library.
  10. Have some slogans on the value of the library ready to put into election programs, invite yourself to local party meetings before election time and share ideas on the future of the library.

When you have done all this, unfortunately there is no guarantee that you will not be faced with budget cuts, but there are a few more things that might help to influence how politicians think about the library; whether they think you are a trustworthy partner.

  1. Make sure that you deliver. Quality of services, opening hours, number of activities.
  2. Keep up your end of ‘the deal’, be reliable. If you say you will do something, do it!
  3. Work within budget.
  4. No surprises: if you foresee that you will not be able to manage within budget, tell your aldermen as soon as you know.
  5. Continuity: make sure that the municipality is dealing with the same set of library employees. A lot of changes in management don’t give a reliable picture.

Of course, all the above is written from a Dutch perspective. Most public libraries in the Netherlands are an independent  foundation, although for 70-80% of their exploitation budget they rely on funding by the local council. The position of an independent foundation does give more freedom when it comes to advocacy. Still, even if your library is part of the local council (i.e. your employees are civil servants), I feel that there are ways to inform and influence the local politicians. You should have started yesterday… but let’s get going and start advocating today!


Public Library Advocacy in the US and Australia


Often it takes everyday people to really bring issues home to local legislators. That’s the thinking behind the American Library Association’s Ilovelibraries.org initiative.

One of the features on the Ilovelibraries.org site is a library value calculator (What’s your library worth?) that visitors can use to determine how much they would pay for library materials and services if they actually had to buy them. Categories like the number of e-books downloaded, computer hours logged, and database searches conducted are included in the calculation.

The calculator, like most of the resources available on the site, is designed to help support ALA’s position that libraries remain relevant and much-needed information centres for local communities.

A key section of the Ilovelibraries.org site is dedicated to “real stories.” The site makes it easy FOR users to share their stories online by just clicking on the photo that asks, “Has the library made a difference in your life? Tell us your story.”

ALA believes the overall success of the initiative rests on its ability to continue to engage everyday advocates.



Meanwhile the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) has launched FAIR which campaigns for a fair, open and democratic society where information belongs to everyone.

FAIR stands for Freedom of Access to Information and Resources.

It will lobby for a series of issues including well funded libraries, copyright law reform, the digitisation of our history, evidence-based policy making, lifelong learning and qualified library staff in schools.

ALIA created FAIR to give people a way to actively support all kinds of libraries including public, TAFE, university, health, law, business, government as well as our National and State Libraries.

FAIR enables people to show their support for the FAIR issues and will help secure the future for libraries.




National Libraries Day

Johnny Rotton


In a specially recorded message singer, songwriter and musician John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, implores the UK to value its libraries and urges everyone to show their support on National Libraries Day, Saturday 7 February.

Crediting libraries and librarians for his recovery from memory loss after contracting meningitis as an eight year old, the audio message was recorded to mark the annual national celebration of libraries and library staff and follows the recent publication of Lydon’s autobiography, Anger is an Energy.  The recording will be available to listen to on Saturday 7 February via the National Libraries Day website.

7 February rounds off a week’s worth of celebrations hosted by libraries of all kinds around the UK for their communities, including a J.R.R. Tolkien trail walk, a school’s Guinness World Record attempt, stargazing and Warhammer and special appearances by local authors, historians and others.

Details of nationwide events are posted to the National Libraries Day online event map and people can show their support in person by joining a local event or by simply visiting their library during National Libraries Day week. Supporters can also share stories, messages and library ‘shelfies’ online and on social media.

First introduced in 2012, National Libraries Day is designed to say a collective thank-you to librarians and library staff everywhere and to raise awareness of the valued services they offer. Last year thousands of people took part in over 600 events and many public figures including well-known authors, illustrators, MPs and musicians sent messages of support.

Image source: “John Lydon Mosaic by Ed Chapman” by dullhunk, used under CC BY 2.0 / Background colour changed, text added and image cropped and resized


The A to Z of Library Advocacy


The Library A to Z has been launched in the UK and is now available  for use. The campaign is focused on free promotional and advocacy materials for use by libraries and their supporters, as well as a means of highlighting the economic and social value of libraries to decision makers to encourage continued investment. The key message highlights that modern library services are much more than buildings containing books – they provide services beyond this scope that support the development and well-being of individuals, the community and the economy.

The Library A to Z was funded by 155 generous backers, including key sponsor The Library Campaign, via a Kickstarter campaign during May 2014. We raised £4,543, which was more than twice the basic funding goal. With this money the organisers (Andrew Walsh Gary Green) commissioned freelance illustrator Josh Filhol to produce full colour images depicting the words that reflect the great work, activities and values of libraries. These illustrations are used as the basis for a range of promotional and advocacy materials including posters, cards and a full colour book. As well as the illustrated library alphabet, the book also includes quotes from library users from the Voices for the Library site and a chapter about the positive impact of libraries.
Library A to Z materials including full colour illustrations, posters, book and greeting cards are available for anyone to freely download and use for promotional and advocacy purposes here. Unless otherwise stated, these materials are available to re-use and adapt under a creative commons licence (cc by 4.0). week, 17-22 November.

Opportunity for EU Public Libraries

EU Public Libraries

Throughout the implementation of the Public Libraries 2020 programme, the Reading & Writing Foundation calls on public libraries and associated organisations to apply for advocacy grants.

These grants are aimed at supporting advocacy projects at any level (local, national or international) that highlight the services that public libraries provide in the areas of social inclusion, digital inclusion or lifelong learning. We will fund newly developed projects or ongoing initiatives tailored specifically to this programme.

Public libraries, public library associations and other organisations working with public libraries in one or more of the 28 EU countries are invited to apply. Grants will amount to up to 15,000 euros, although joint proposals for a larger budget will be considered as well.

The call for proposals will have a rolling deadline with a 6-month cycle. The first date to keep in mind is October 17, 2014, 18:00 CET. The second deadline closes on April 17, 2015, 18:00 CET. The third and last deadline for applications is October 16, 2015, 18:00 CET. Please keep in mind that all projects will have to be to be implemented and their results delivered by April 15, 2016.