A weekend with wizard activists

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Granger Leadership Academy (GLA) in Warwick, Rhode Island. The conference, hosted by the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), is a four day event focused on equipping attendees with the knowledge they need to be strong and effective leaders. In keeping with the HPA’s commitment to teaching activism skills through the power of story, the Academy provides training that is built on the foundation of the HPA’s Narrative Leadership model of development. Having worked with the HPA in the past, I was excited to see what they had in store for us.

Unlike many large events I’ve attended, GLA had a strong sense of community and inclusion from the very beginning. This is part of what makes the Granger Leadership Academy so unique; the conference creates an inclusive space for attendees to share their experiences with each other and benefit from the collective experiences of the other attendees. Granger Leadership Academy logoTeams work together to make the most out of the event, using group meeting times to decide who will attend which workshop so that the skills and topics taught can be brought back to the group and discussed. I should mention too that while most attendees were 18 to 20 years old, some were as young as 13 and others were in their 30s or 40s. Instead of inhibiting the sense of community, however, the differences in ages only helped to support the mission of the conference – to learn from each other and grow together.

The panels and workshops themselves ran the gamut. My personal favorite, called “Friends, Waffles, Work”, was hosted by Jenn Northington of Book Riot and Stephanie Anderson of Darien Library. It featured a discussion about work/life balance, thoughtful planning, and finding success, with plenty of time for a Q+A. Other sessions focused on everything from how to create safe spaces in your community, to conversations about the basics of lobbying and activism, from transgender advocacy and racial justice, to exploring mass atrocities through the lens of fiction. The range and depth of the topics discussed during GLA was staggering, and even though I was attending to help out with other projects and the conference itself, I ended up learning a lot myself.

You’re probably wondering why exactly I was at the Granger Leadership Academy. Well, in part I was on site to film an episode of an advocacy project that I have been working on collaboratively with Harry Potter Alliance. I’ll have more information for you about this project in the near future.

More importantly, I attended in order to help out with the final stage of activism training that the HPA had planned for attendees. Throughout the event, the attendees received periodic updates from Headquarters, warning them that there was a potential threat on the horizon. On Sunday, the final dispatch revealed that the threat, now unavoidable, was against libraries. As the resident library advocacy specialist, I had the opportunity to talk about how important libraries are to their communities and ask attendees to help us defend libraries from LSTA and IAL funding cuts during the appropriations process.

Now, going in, I had little doubt that this was a good crowd to wrangle into library advocacy. Just the night before, I had watched a crowd of attendees of all ages singing along to a wizard rock song whose refrain was “Let’s All Go to the Library”. And they did not disappointment me on Sunday morning. Our call to action was met with a lot of cheering as we broke them into teams to learn more about writing press releases, coordinating demonstrations, making advocacy videos, and writing letters to Congress. By the end of the morning, attendees had written and mailed 40 letters to Congress, asking their Senators and Representatives to sign onto the LSTA and IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters (and spawning the hashtag #OwlsToWashington in the process). Press releases and videos were discussed and planned, and the demonstration group even volunteered to put on an impromptu demonstration, encouraging all the attendees to use #LibrariesTransform to discuss the importance of libraries. I admit I teared up a little listening to all the cheering. It was an inspiring sight to see, and I’m grateful to have been able to participate.

I could go on and on about this event, but mostly I just want to encourage you to take a look at the Harry Potter Alliance page and see how you and your library could get involved in their Chapters programs. In fact, we’re also partnering with the HPA Chapters to coordinate a library advocacy campaign around Virtual Library Legislative Day (VLLD) this year. If you have an HPA Chapter in your area, or you think your library would be a good host of a Chapter, get involved with the HPA. It is such a great way to engage young adults in your community, and you couldn’t ask for more positive, empowering organization than the HPA to partner with.

We’ll be posting more information about this year’s VLLD events and the upcoming advocacy video series soon. In the meantime, take a second to listen to “Let’s All Go to the Library” by Tonks and the Aurors, just for fun.

About Lisa Lindle

Lisa Lindle is the Grassroots Communications Specialist for the American Library Association. She coordinates National Library Legislative Day and manages the ALA Washington Office's social media communications capabilities.

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