At the recent Midwinter Meetings in Boston, new ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries were officially announced. The changes reflect the way members of ALSC are accomplishing our work. One of those changes is the creating of a new Outreach and Advocacy section. We are very excited that advocacy has been highlighted in this way! Advocacy is definitely a core part of the services librarians have the opportunity to provide to children and their families every day.
As the Advocacy & Legislation Committee discussed our work for the upcoming year, we hit upon the idea of highlighting how librarians might be engaging in advocacy without even knowing it. In fact, as we were discussing our advocacy stories, one of our members said, “I don’t have an advocacy story,” and then went on to talk about her after-school programs in her school library, staying open so children have a safe place to stay until their parents are able to pick them up.
This scenario repeats itself daily. Librarians are doing heroic activities as part of their day-to-day work, and never realizing they are engaging in library advocacy. Our hope is that over the upcoming year, the Advocacy and Legislation Committee will be able to highlight areas where librarians are already practicing advocacy. Ultimately, we are hoping that people will submit their advocacy stories to the Everyday Advocacy website and increase awareness of the work everyone is doing.
Related to this is the opportunity to share these stories with Federal and national stakeholders who are developing legislation and policy. You are aware of the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which includes school librarians as an essential part of successful school curriculum, and you are probably aware that it’s passage was thanks in part to the many calls librarians, teachers, students, and parents made to their elected leaders.
You may not be aware that ALSC and the Advocacy and Legislation Committee gets requests from these same leaders and stakeholders to include best practices in policy and issues briefs of activities that libraries are already doing. When elected officials can see success that is already happening, they have a greater willingness and motivation to enact change based on those models. The stories you share can be used as best practices that might be seen by elected leaders at the highest levels.
For the rest of the year, the Advocacy and Legislation Committee will be writing posts on the theme, “Did you know this is advocacy?” We’ll be discussing different ways librarians engage in advocacy and connecting your day-to-day activities with advocacy, and by extension, the new Competencies. Some of the areas we will be discussing include: Hunger, at-risk kids, diversity, libraries as safe spaces, early literacy, schools, family literacy, community engagement, partnerships, outreach, and barriers to access.
As we engage in these discussions, we are hoping to develop a list of potential resources for future opportunities to share our stories with stakeholders. We’ll be asking for you to submit your names to us as you realize you are engaging in important advocacy. Then we can connect with you when we get asked for examples of leaders in libraries that are modeling great activities in one of these areas!
We are looking forward to these discussions! Now go Advocate!
Matt McLain is the Co-chair of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee, and works at the Manager of the South Jordan Branch of the Salt Lake County Library. firstname.lastname@example.org