Library advocacy can take many forms and include countless people. From telling fellow shoppers in the grocery line how libraries have changed to speaking up at a city council hearing in support of better salaries for library workers, everyone who cares about libraries--trustees, volunteers, patrons, and staff--are indeed spreading the world about the importance of libraries.
The need for advocacy is greater than ever in this challenging fiscal environment. At a time when there is a nationwide increase in library usage, funding for our beloved institutions is dismal, and in some instances shortages are severe. Stories of closures, reductions in service hours, slashed materials expenditures, deferred building maintenance, and staff layoffs fill the pages of our library literature. Nearly every week we read or hear of instances of the havoc that a gloomy economy is having on library services. And just as often, we hear and read of library workers who have taken up the mantle and sounded the alarm for others to join them in community, campus, or statewide library-support efforts. Despite the disturbing stories, the current situation has done something positive--created new advocates and friends who we hope will stay the course over the long haul.
Over the years, many of us have become advocates--by design or circumstance--in defense of our library budgets. As I travel and speak about equity of access, the advocacy component of this overall theme continues to take prominence. At a recent program sponsored by the South East Florida Library and Information Network (SEFLIN), Peter Pearson, executive director of the St. Paul (Minn.) Public Library Foundation, presented an overview of how to expand equity of access during severe economic times. His main components were private fundraising and development (not to replace public dollars, but to expand opportunities), strategic alliances and partnerships, and political advocacy.
As essential as it is to …