Involve young people in library advocacy

Guest post by Katie Bowers, Campaigns Director for the Harry Potter Alliance.

The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is an organization that uses the power of story to turn fans into heroes. Each spring, the HPA hosts an annual worldwide literacy campaign known as “Accio Books“. Started in 2009, Accio Books began as a book drive where HPA members donated over 30,000 books to the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. Today, we’ve donated over 250,000 books to communities in need around the world.When in doubt, go to the library

The HPA runs Accio Books every year because we believe that the power of story should be accessible to everyone. That’s why we’re so excited to be using our unique model to help young people advocate for libraries on National and Virtual Library Legislative Day (VLLD) this year! We’ve invited our members to call, write, and even visit their lawmakers in support of the ALA’s asks. Our members are excited: we have already received 475 pledges to send owls (letters and calls) to Washington on May 3.

Want to get young people at your library excited for VLLD? The HPA has created a guide for library staff on using pop culture to help young people send their own owls to Washington. The first step? Start an HPA chapter! Chapters are fun, youth-led, and entirely free to start. As a chapter, library staff and your organizers get access to more free resources and lots of support from HPA staff and volunteers.

Once you have your chapter, talk with members about why they love libraries, and how they feel about issues like accessibility, copyright, and technology. Brainstorming parallels from beloved stories can be a great way to have this conversation. For example, adequate funding is a major concern for libraries. Imagine – if the Hogwarts’ library had its funding cut then Hermione, Harry and Ron might never have learned about the Sorcerer’s Stone! Use storytelling to help make VLLD understandable and relatable, and then ask your chapter what they want to do support libraries.

HPA members have come up with all sorts of creative ideas, from hosting letter writing socials and call centers to creating Youtube videos and Tumblr photosets celebrating libraries. You might be asking yourself, “Why would young people care?” Through HPA campaigns, young people made 3,000 phone calls for marriage equality, donated 250,000 books to libraries and literacy organizations worldwide, and organized over 20,000 Youtube video creators and fans to advocate for net neutrality. The truth is, young people want to make a difference, and advocacy can give them that chance. Virtual Library Legislative Day makes Washington advocacy available to anyone, but you and the HPA can bring the inspiration and excitement!

You can check out the full VLLD resource on the HPA’s website, along with ideas for bringing Accio Books to your library and celebrating World Book Night! You can also learn how to help our chapter in Masaka, Uganda stock the shelves of a brand new school library. 

Editor’s note: If you plan to participate in VLLD this year, let us know!

About Katie Bowers

Katie joined the HPA as a volunteer in 2013 before coming on full time as the Campaigns Director in 2015. An avid reader with a desire to do good, Katie has been integrating her love of pop culture and social justice through youth organizing initiatives for over a decade. Send Katie an owl: katieb@thehpalliance.org

Share your thoughts