Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Reviewing the Research and Evidence: Towards Best Practices for Garnering Support for School Libraries

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Reviewing the Research and Evidence: Towards Best Practices for Garnering Support for School Libraries

Article excerpt


Though not exclusive to school libraries, concerns about cutting funding to libraries have been common in the popular media in the past few years. For example, during the past few months alone, the American Library Association has given extensive attention to funding issues for school libraries and the need for all types of librarians to be concerned, and to advocate for same.

Despite these reports, few research studies have looked at the context for decisions regarding library funding, and only recently has the construct of interpersonal influence been explored in the decision-making process. However, when these studies are considered in conjunction with evidence from other relevant fields such as public administration, social psychology and economics, patterns begin to emerge.

School library stakeholders have participated in advocacy activities extensively over the past decade (Ewbank & Kwon, 2015). At the local level, staff, users and other interested supporters of school libraries have devoted time and effort in advocating for strengthened library services. These efforts are not being carried out in vain. As worldwide economic woes continue to plague governments and businesses, the risk of decreased library budgets remains high.

Given this context, the research question this paper seeks to answer is: "Can literature from the domains of public administration, social psychology, economics, and librarianship provide evidence of effective advocacy techniques that teacher librarians and other school library stakeholders can apply when seeking increased financial support?"

The definition of advocacy varies little from one library association to another with most emphasizing the notion of librarians and other concerned stakeholders (such a library trustees, library users, senior managers, and other supporters) influencing a decision-maker or decisionmaking body to alter a view and subsequent actions to positively support libraries (Ewing, 2011). According to Nicholson-Crotty (2005), "...advocacy can include public education, public relations, research, mobilization efforts, agenda setting, lobbying, monitoring legislative or bureaucratic activity...." (p. 114).

For the purposes of this review, the following definition is used: Advocacy is a planned, deliberate, sustained effort to develop understanding and support incrementally over time (Haycock, 2006). It is worth noting that advocacy in the not-for-profit sector is being redefined for boards from advocacy as a role, to developing sustainable resources such that the organization can achieve its mission; advocacy is thus a means, not an end. In this context it goes far beyond public relations and raising awareness.

The Context of Research/Evidence

Many reports of advocacy efforts appear in the literature - few are evidence based. The body of work describing studies that attempt to measure the efficacy of advocacy techniques is scarce, regardless of discipline, profession or service, though the work done in other disciplines can help inform this challenge as well as strengthen the conclusions drawn from library-based studies.

This review brings together studies examining various aspects of the advocacy process in the library sector and lays a foundation for influencing budgetary decision-making by exploring relevant key works in other disciplines. The findings show salient themes are present across these bodies of literature and those techniques appearing most effective are supported by evidence.

There are so many reports of actions taken by library stakeholders in North America and other regions globally that it would be difficult to create an exhaustive list. The authors of many of these reports declare that the survival of the library as an institution depends on library staff informing the public about library services (see for example: Chamberlain, 2009; Maxwell, 2008; Moorman, 2009; Richards, 2009). …

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