Joan Ress Reeves began her career in library advocacy more than thirty years ago in Providence, R.I. Now, Joan serves as a member of the Library Board of Rhode Island, the organization that advises the Office of Library and Information Services on policy issues and funding for state libraries. Reeves…
Category: Advocacy Spotlight
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.
Sara Kelly Johns is a New York-based veteran advocate for school libraries. Johns currently works as a school librarian at a middle-high school and teaches for the School Library and Information Technologies program at Mansfield University. Johns previously served as the president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) from 2007-2008. She is the AASL Division Councilor for the ALA Council, is involved with the Act for School Libraries group, sits on the ALA Committee on Legislation Grassroots Advocacy Subcommittee and serves on the AASL Legislative Committee. Additionally, Johns is a member of the Board of Regents Advisory Council for Libraries. Today, Johns presents and writes on advocacy and leadership.
How did you get involved with library advocacy?
I have long been a member of the New York Library Association (NYLA), and a member of the NYLA Legislative Day advocacy team. Between 1993 and 1994, NYLA received a grant for public awareness, and they started focusing on formal approaches to marketing and advocacy. The NYLA had a New York City public relations firm train us and develop tools and techniques that could be adapted to library situations and library needs. After I went through the training, it became obvious to me that while I wasn’t trained on marketing, I knew that librarians needed to become aware of ways to market their school library. That was where I received my first media training, and that was the first time that I saw an organized approach to developing a marketing program using a model that was used extensively in the private sector, but had not been used extensively by libraries. The NYLA program later became the impetus for my ALA and AASL advocacy and marketing work.
“If you do one piece of program promotion a week, then you will have people behind you when you need support.”
Why do school librarians need to know marketing approaches?
School librarians desperately need legislation that supports school library programs and those decision makers are different than public library decision makers. It’s very much a local marketing approach. Your local superintendent, school board, principals–those are the people that make decisions about your program. In a school library, teachers have to know why they should work with you, and the administration has to know why they should keep your position. They’re not going to know if you don’t take the time to be visible.
I took small steps at first to publicize my library’s program. I wrote newsletter articles about my library for the school district. I made it a goal that there would not be a district newsletter that went to the community that did not mention the school library. I also share photos of school library activities via Flickr. Later, one of the fun things that I did was create a library media day, where teachers, students and community members did exhibits on interests supported by libraries. They brought in everything from tarantulas in cages to putting a racecar outside the building. I firmly believe that if you do one piece of program promotion a week, then you will have people behind you when you need support. My personal “formula” is that “P + M=A,” Promotion + Marketing=Advocates.
Pat Tumulty is the executive director of the New Jersey Library Association, the oldest and largest library organization in New Jersey. As the head of the 1600-member organization, Tumulty coordinates statewide advocacy efforts and represents libraries to legislators. Additionally, she serves as the chair of the American Library Association’s ALA Committee on Advocacy, working to encourage library advocacy across the country.
How did you get involved with library advocacy?
I’ve worked in public libraries, special libraries and state libraries for over 20 years, and I’ve always been involved with advocacy, but my position as the executive director [of the New Jersey Library Association] has been where I got my advocacy training. The ALA Washington Office sets the policy and we follow their lead on whether we should contact our legislators. On the state level, we work with specific goals to set policy in our own state, whether it be for school library funding or public libraries.
With advocacy work, it really is a team effort. You need a lot of people working toward the same goal.
Brandy Hamilton is the public policy chair for the North Carolina Library Association and the regional library manager at the East Regional Library in Knightdale, Wake County, NC. Hamilton coordinated the North Carolina group of the 2012 National Library Legislative Day event in Washington, D.C., helping the advocacy team earn the distinction of being the largest state group to participate this year. Learn about how this 13-year library veteran is working with the NC Library Advocacy Taskforce to support libraries by collecting personal stories and using videos to influence legislators.
How did you get involved with library advocacy?
Advocacy has been one of those things that I went into because someone asked me for help. In 2009, I was invited to participate in National Library Legislative Day. For the next few years, I learned advocacy skills by observing and participating. I had three years under my belt before I was elected earlier this year as one of the spokespeople for the North Carolina Library Association and I took the reins as the state coordinator. It was a little intimidating at first, but the more you get involved, the more your passion for things grows.
“We’ve worked to get personal library stories on the website because we want legislators and community members to see the emotional connection people have with libraries.”
How do you work with your grassroots team to advocate for libraries?
This year, the North Carolina Library Association created an advocacy team called the NC Library Advocate Taskforce, which is an ad hoc group of the state association. Our group joined various library organizations across the state to create the NC Library Advocacy Taskforce website in order to advocate better for libraries. This year, we’ve worked to get personal library stories on the website because we want legislators and community members to see the emotional connection people have with libraries. We also wanted to show them how libraries support workforce development and job creation. Our goal is to get stories from each congressional district. The stories are coming mostly from library patrons. For example, one library patron came in to a library for a writing workshop, and got the courage to write her own story, which turned into a bestseller. You can read stories like hers on our website. We’ve recently started creating two-page brochures out of the stories.