State and National Advocacy Efforts
Every year the Kentucky Public Library Association’s Advocacy Committee hosts Library Legislative Day – a day in which library supporters bring awareness of important issues related to libraries and library contributions to the state’s legislators. Members of the Committee and other library administrators make appointments with their local legislators, typically no longer than 15 or 20 minutes each, to discuss how the library is doing in their area of the state.
Attending Library Legislative Day in Kentucky has been one of the best experiences of my professional career; participating in conversations with local government representatives and sharing with them crucial differences the library makes in the lives of Northern Kentucky’s citizens has been incredibly rewarding.
National Library Legislative Day, organized by ALA, is held annually in May and takes place in Washington, D.C. Not many librarians have the opportunity to attend this national event, and a state-focused advocacy initiative is just as important for libraries.
How to Discuss Teen Services
When advocating for libraries, numbers and data are on your side. You’ll want to be able to rattle off information at the drop of a hat. Practicing can help, as can sharing your information with coworkers, friends, and pretty much anyone who will listen.
Being able to discuss how many teens you serve, what your program numbers are like, and how much outreach you do is important. Also be able to discuss the kinds of services you are offering, particularly those related to education.
You want the legislator to come away with an impression that your library is preparing your community’s youth for college and the workforce.
Bringing It Back to Your State
If you have the opportunity to discuss advocacy in your state-level library organization, be sure to bring up a state Library Legislative Day. Perhaps there is already an advocacy committee that has a similar annual event planned. Discuss with your supervisors and administrators that you are interested in helping out with such an event. Show your enthusiasm for libraries in these conversations, but also have content to back up your passion. Let them know you have data and anecdotes about serving your community that you would love to share with legislators.
If there isn’t an advocacy effort aimed at your state’s legislators, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk about it. Just make sure you’re talking to the right people – find out about your state’s library advocacy committee or similar organization and contact them. If possible, talk face-to-face with the people on the committee, so that they can put a face with your name once you’re in email contact later on. And don’t forget to include your immediate supervisor in these conversations – he or she will have to approve your involvement in any advocacy activities you are involved in later on.
Don’t be afraid to step up and talk about what you think should be happening in your state. Are you worried that there already are advocacy efforts going on that you don’t know about? That in itself is an important point! As an informed librarian in your state, you should know about these efforts, and if you don’t then those involved are not publicizing them well enough and should be more interested in getting new people to help them out and share the work.
It’s never too late to speak up and speak out for libraries and Teen Services!