Library Advocacy 101
Who should be a library advocate?
Anybody who believes in the importance of libraries and access to information! This includes library trustees and Friends, library users (including children and their parents), educators, community leaders and librarians.
What can you do to advocate for your library?
- Use PaLA’s PA Forward initiative to frame issues your elected officials can relate to. PA Forward can help them better understand how important libraries are to the future of their constituents. The PA Forward website as well as the PA Forward Toolkit are full of ways to educate leaders about the power of Pennsylvania’s libraries.
- Stay informed.
- Be enthusiastic and upbeat.
- Meet with local and state legislators to discuss important issues and to thank them for their support.
- Follow your legislators on Twitter and Facebook.
- Invite legislators and your local elected officials to come to your library, if not for a personal tour, then for an event like a legislative breakfast. Take plenty of pictures of them and post them around the library.
- The New York Library Association has great information on meeting with elected officials.
- Offer space in your library for your local officials to hold town hall or open meetings with their constituents. This is an excellent way to show the library’s involvement with the community, as well as helping you build a relationship with your representatives.
- Join business groups like Rotary so that you can network with local leaders and enable them to become aware of what the library does and can do for them.
What other methods can you use to communicate with legislators?
- Don’t assume your legislators and your local elected officials know what the library is and what it has to offer. They may be operating under an impression of libraries they formed as children. Try to nudge them into recognizing how important libraries are in their communities today. One way to start: offer them a library card!
- Watch for emails from PaLA urging you to contact legislators by writing letters and sending emails.
- Be as specific as possible; for example, cite a bill by its number (Legislative Session information). Explain why you support or oppose the issue, giving examples from your local experience if you can.
- Telephone calls can also be useful ways to communicate. You may not get past the receptionist, but your call will be noted, as will your position on the issue at hand.
- Remember to leverage our relationships. Enlist organizations and their members like Pennsylvania Citizens for Better Libraries (PCBL) to assist in reinforcing the message to legislators.
- The Illinois Library Association has a well-done advocacy toolkit online. Take a look at their suggestions
- And don’t forget—advocacy for libraries is a year-round job.
ALA Advocacy University
Information, courses and tools to help library advocates make the case at the local level - Including "Advocating in a tough economy toolkit." ALA Advocacy University
Read PaLA's latest Legislative Update
Provided by PaLA, this provides important issue alerts as well as information for PA Legislators including contact information for Harrisburg and their districts. Go the legislator’s individual web page for more information on the issues important to them.
Allows you to track your legislator’s votes on bills, and it provides a short legislative history of each piece of legislation including who introduced the bill and when it was referred out of committee.
Return On Investment
Not sure who your Federal elected officials are? Go to the Legislative Action Center ALA Capwiz . If you have never used it before, check out the video tutorial. The information on individual legislators includes contact and web site addresses, committee appointments, list of his/her staff members, campaign contributors, and his/her stance on important Federal library related issues.
THOMAS Provided on the Library of Congress web site, THOMAS provides information on federal legislation and it includes the Congressional Record as well as links to other government sites.