Magazine article American Libraries

The Advocacy Continuum: A Framework for ALA That Helps All of the Parts Work Better Together

Magazine article American Libraries

The Advocacy Continuum: A Framework for ALA That Helps All of the Parts Work Better Together

Article excerpt

Over the last year and a half, we have been talking a lot with members about advocacy and the strategic direction of the Association for the coming years. In dozens of kitchen-table conversations, chapter forums, virtual town hall meetings; in conversations with divisions, round tables, committees, and affiliates; and in discussions with Council and the ALA-wide Planning and Budget Assembly, we have asked members to talk about their aspirations and vision for advocacy.

Throughout these conversations, members have consistently identified advocacy as one of the most important things the Association does. They have agreed that there is a need for a consistent message in our advocacy efforts. And, interestingly, they have told us that there is a need for a clearer common understanding of what we mean by advocacy.

That's because, while everyone pretty much agrees that advocacy is important, there is not always agreement on exactly what we mean by advocacy. To one member, advocacy is federal legislation. To another, it is increasing public awareness of the value and impact of libraries. To another, it is the work involved in passing a local bond issue. As with the proverbial elephant, different people have different perspectives.

Last spring, I wrote about an emerging vision of advocacy, one that helps us better understand how the pieces fit together. In September, ALA President Courtney L. Young wrote about the need for advocacy and some of the many ways in which members could advocate as part of an advocacy "continuum." This continuum reflects four interrelated components that support and amplify one another:

Laying the groundwork involves efforts that require long-term investment and yield long-term results. The Libraries Transforming Communities project provides training and tools that will allow thousands of libraries to reach out to their communities in new and creative ways, building long-term community support.

The new Center for the Future of Libraries and projects such as YALSA's Future of Library Services for and with Teens help the public and decision makers see libraries as forward-thinking and innovative institutions.

The Campaign for America's Libraries and such initiatives as the Declaration for the Right to Libraries increase public awareness of the positive impact of libraries of all types.

Research that documents the value and impact of libraries--such as the work of the Office for Research and Statistics, ACRL's work on the Value of Academic Libraries, and PLA's work on public library impact measures--helps us better make the case for strong support.

Turning support into action involves responding to community aspirations with forward-looking plans and building community coalitions to support these plans.

ALA's Advocacy University provides virtual and face-to-face training, resources, and encouragement to thousands of librarians and library supporters each year.

PLA's "Turning the Page Online" training program provides librarians, library staff, trustees, and supporters with the skills and confidence they need to advocate successfully on behalf of their libraries.

ALSC's Everyday Advocacy helps librarians stay informed, engaged, and inspired; share their stories; and speak out. United for Libraries' Citizens-Save-Libraries Power Guide for Successful Advocacy helps library supporters reach their local advocacy goals. …

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