Building a Library Advocacy Team

A lot has changed since the presidential election. Our national political landscape has done a total 180. Library advocacy at all levels—national, state and local–is going to be as important as ever. You can’t just wait until you’ve got just a few months to organize for a vote or to move your local municipal leaders to increase funding. You’ve got to build your advocacy team before you need it.

Trustees, Friends, volunteers and patrons already have an affinity for your library. Turn that commitment into action by building a strong advocacy team that will be ready to put strategies into action on day one.

5 Steps for Putting Together a Library Advocacy Plan

  1. Think about who has stepped up for and is passionate about your library. Who would be an effective spokesperson? Who has connections in the community you can leverage? Who has time to devote? Who can organize tasks and people? It’s not just your board and friends. Think about patrons, community/opinion leaders, moms and dads who are committed to the library’s programs and services. Put together a core group of five to ten people who are forward thinking and can plan for future advocacy efforts. Use online tools such as Google Calendar, Google Groups and Google Drive to keep everyone informed.
  2. Create your advocacy plan. Now that you’ve got a core group together, figure out what your advocacy goal is. Is there library budget or building referendum vote in your future? Do you need to impress upon your local municipality the importance of increasing the library’s funding? Once you know your goal, you can map out objectives such as messaging and campaign branding, community outreach for support, phone banking and other voter identification activities, outreach to elected officials, Get Out the Vote, etc.
  3. Figure out who is doing what. Who will write materials? Who will speak with the press? Who will coordinate community outreach and presentations? Who has the relationship with the Mayor and local elected officials? These are all important questions you ask while creating your advocacy plan and then answer. The core of any effective advocacy team is the willingness to take responsibility for tasks. It’s not enough for folks to say—“Yeah, I’ll help out.” We need team members to say, “Yes, I’ll schedule all the public presentations” or “I’ll coordinate the campaign’s messaging” or “I’ll organize the phone banks.”
  4. Determine Library Stakeholders and Get Them Involved. Reaching out to library stakeholders and other community/opinion leaders is essential. You don’t necessarily want them on the core advocacy team but you do want them speaking out on behalf of your library’s advocacy goal. Voters and elected officials expect to hear how important the library is from trustees, friends or active volunteers. But, hearing your library’s advocacy message from the president of the local chamber of commerce or the chair of the Rotary Club or from the head of the School Board or the president of the Little League will carry as much, if not more, weight because they are not directly related to the library. Once you identify these folks, ask them to speak out at specific venues or meetings and make sure they have your talking points. They can fashion them to sound like their own thoughts but these stakeholder messengers have to stay on the library’s message.
  5. Have a campaign calendar that drives your advocacy goal. Make sure everyone involved knows what has to be done when. Keep adding to the calendar—community meetings, deadlines for mailing materials, dates for phone banking. Having a library advocacy plan that is driven by a calendar that the team has access to and can add to will keep everyone on task.

Putting together an advocacy team before you need one gives you strength in numbers and a base from which to organize. If your vote is a year off, getting people together now who will take on tasks and build a solid foundation of support is key to your success. You may also want to look into professional library advocacy workshops and training to get your team informed about all aspects of advocating for libraries. Workshops cover how to develop your brand and marketing campaign for your library, how to build support in your community, review of various funding options available, and other important information to help you build support and get funding for your library.

For more information on library advocacy services or library advocacy workshops, please contact Libby Post at 518-438-2826.

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