Betsy Adamowski is the library director of the Itasca Community Library in Itasca, IL, and has been a member of the Illinois Library Association for over 20 years. She served on the Illinois Library Association Board of Directors for three years before becoming the chair of the organization’s Advocacy Committee in 2011.
How do you work with your team to advocate for libraries?
As the Chair of the Advocacy Committee I work side by side with the director of the Illinois Library Association (ILA) to promote the various advocacy initiatives that ILA does. The one initiative that we developed was the Legislative Action Network (LAN). This is a network that is made up of library community advocates who are inputted into a database that is broken up by legislative districts. The LAN is put to work whenever an urgent legislative item comes and urgent action is needed. We send an email to those individuals in the specific district in order to get the action needed carried out in timely manner. Other initiatives that we work on are development of an Advocacy Toolkit, Legislative functions, speaking engagements at trustee functions, participation in ILA annual conference, National Library Day promotion and Illinois Legislative Day events.
We need to stress that the library community needs to talk about their libraries to everyone, and to stress the value and return on the investment that a library gives a community.
How did you get involved with advocacy?
I have always been involved with advocacy in some way since I began my work as a librarian. I started with simply making calls to local legislators on bills. I started attending the ILA Legislative Day in Springfield when I became a director and that is when I really saw the value of advocating. I became the Chair of the ILA Advocacy Committee last year and was able to begin to make a difference with advocacy ideas for ILA.
What’s going on right now in Illinois?
To address the state’s economic challenges, we are working to engage library activists from all across the entire state because each area has their own specific issues. Right now, we have a committee of ten advocates, made up of five library advocates from north end of the state and five library advocates from the south. For example, northern Illinois is more urban, more centered around Chicago, while the South is more rural and has more farmland. The southern regions have much larger districts geographically, but smaller populations. Recently, a legislator proposed a bill that pushed for giving all of the homeless library cards, which was not an easy mandate for our rural libraries.