As a relatively new librarian who is also new to ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation Committee, I am still learning the role of a librarian advocate. I’ll be honest, it often feels overwhelming. I’ll add that this feeling may never dissipate.
There is a lot to think about. From local to state and federal stakeholders, I often feel my perch at the kid’s desk isn’t the place where real advocacy happens. How can I rally support for libraries at all levels? It’s not just a question I ask myself as a member of this committee. I am sure it’s a question we all pose to ourselves.
So today, I’ll keep it simple. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we advocate library services every day and we do it from our desks in the kid’s area. Let’s keep it up and consider being more intentional in our everyday advocacy.
ALA provides a wealth of resources that can help us better advocate for library services. We feature many on this blog every month and I encourage you all to dive into them (get at Everyday Advocacy!). Still, as you can read here, “advocacy, at its most basic, is about relationships.”
That really hit it home for me. It’s an enormous part of our jobs with children and their families. We provide excellent customer service (although many of us may not wish to call it that). We spend time getting to know our readers and their needs. We assist children and their caregivers in frantic searches for books about specific frogs or birds or sharks or dinosaurs. And we love doing it!
Think about how most of those interactions end. The family leaves with a sense of satisfaction and the knowledge that the library is a resource that works for them.
Do they come back? Not always, but they often do. One thing is for sure, your attention to their needs provided for an experience that deepened their confidence in the library. It may have even positively influenced their future support.
This is important because these families are our stakeholders. Building relationships with them matters. This is an essential part of the larger advocacy picture. Wow! We’re feeling less overwhelmed, right?
Indeed ALA outlines it here. The language they use is geared toward policy-makers. I’d challenge us to consider it in the framework of the families we serve. So let’s get at it:
- Start now and introduce yourself to each family you meet and remember that gaining their trust will take time.
- Be visible in the community and re-introduce yourself. We do this all the time at schools and community centers and daycares. I mean, we even do this while grocery shopping or grabbing coffee.
- Be attentive and listen to the patrons you serve, it’s an essential skill in our profession and we can always learn to do it better.
Nate Halsan is a current member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. He is a children’s librarian with the Sacramento Public Library in Sacramento, Ca.