Patrick “PC” Sweeney is the Political Director at Every Library, a 501c4, dedicated to helping libraries with campaigns, elections, and any political arena where library funding is at stake. Patrick’s first library job was a school librarian, and claims it was the best job he ever had. Nichole Brown conducted the following interview with Patrick on November 8, 2017, where we discussed advocacy and children’s services.
NB: Tell us about EL’s recent campaign on November 7th.
PS: EL worked with nine libraries on ballot initiatives and seven won! Some of the highlights are that the Rochelle Park, NJ establishes a new library system….
NB: … that means some jobs are opening up?
PS: (laughs) Yup they got the funding! Also, Moniteau County was going to have to close libraries with this ballot measure the citizens were able to prevent that from happening. Our website has all the details.
NB: Congratulations that’s wonderful.
PS: Thank you.
NB: Why is children’s advocacy is important in libraries?
PS: Children are one of our most vulnerable community members. Think about all of the literacy and educational opportunities that will be lost if a library closes. The Grade Level Reading Campaign is one example. It is statistically proven that students who read at grade level in 3rd grade have higher academic success rates in life. Libraries play a large role directly and indirectly supporting this initiative.
NB: Do you think it is appropriate for libraries to advocate for children’s services during ballot measures? Or are we taking just pulling heartstrings?
PS: Children’s Services is one of the libraries biggest messaging points. Some voters make their decisions based on their nostalgic childhood memories. Legislators love to accomplish things for children. So pushing the benefits of libraries for children is always a good thing.
NB: What are some techniques or key phrases youth services librarians can use when advocating for our libraries?
PS: This is a good question and there is not any data available at this time to answer it. Just remember people who vote against library ballots are not anti-library: however the values they share with libraries have not been communicated to them in a meaningful way. I guess what I am saying is that the message depends on the audience. With proper communication libraries can be a bridge between conservative and liberal voters.
NB: When we communicate what should we say?
PS: Honestly not much. Actively listen and ask open ended questions. People want to feel like their point of views are heard and considered.
NB: That’s all I have. Do you have any parting words of wisdom?
PS: We need to look at our different organizations and how we fit in the ecosystem. There is not as much overlap as people may think. Lets think about what we can all build together and make it happen.
Nichole Brown is a children’s librarian with Oakland Public Library (CA). She’s a member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee.