Advocacy is so important in the current economic climate, when public libraries are facing closure or severe cuts and other libraries are under threat too. Support roles are often the first to go when a company is looking to make cuts; we’re a prime example, having dropped from six, to three and a half, and now three full time research positions over the past couple of years.
Johanna Bo Anderson’s blogpost Activism, Advocacy and Professional Identity was really interesting. I agree that advocacy and activism are closely linked but separate; that advocating for libraries is something that should be done continually, regardless of your sector – advertising your service, attracting new users, making sure existing users are happy with the service you provide. As Johanna says:
Advocacy is gentle coaxing and stroking (please do not take that literally, I do not want anyone to get arrested!) whereas activism is “vigorous”, sometimes loud, and sometimes controversial. If you are talking about activism now is not the time for coaxing and stroking. It is time for rolling your sleeves up, getting stuck in and taking action.
We don’t engage in anything we would label advocacy at work, but we do try to promote our services as much as possible. We’re revamping the intranet at the moment so launching that will be one way to bring new users in. Marketing the library is one of the goals of my chartership, so I’ll be looking at our strategy more closely in the coming months.
I went to my first advocacy event last week, at the British Library – three of the shortlisted Booker authors talking to book groups and showing their support for libraries. I tried to write it up for the Books blog but no joy! I wrote it up for this blog but I don’t suppose that counts as being published.
It was great to hear what they had to say, and soundbites help keep the story of library cuts in the press, but words can only go so far. What I’ve found more inspiring this week are the reports from the Library Campaign Conference (tweeted by @tomroper and others) about direct action against closures (like the vigil at Kensal Rise). That’s when the line between advocacy and activism blurs.
It made me question my own inaction (though my local library thankfully isn’t under threat). First step – check out Voices for the Library and see how I can get involved. I think I need to become more of an advocate and an activist.