I don’t know about y’all, but my proverbial shelf is full. Full to overflowing most workdays, with never enough time to get it all done. Adding hours of advocacy work on top of the programming, collection development, space maintenance, displays, outreach, desk shifts, readers advisory, marketing, etc. always feels like something I am just a little more behind on than I’d like to be.
Advocacy is often the work that falls off the shelf.
I work in a small, rural library, which means I am a one-woman Children’s department. I’m very fortunate that I get to work with an incredibly collaborative staff at our library. I never have a problem getting a program covered or asking for help with decorating. However, when it comes to advocacy, I realized that no one else can do it for me. I am the subject matter expert. It is my responsibility to keep the rest of our amazing staff informed, engaged, and inspired when it comes to advocating on behalf of my department and our youngest library users.
I came to this understanding while our library was engaged in a larger advocacy push last year as we strove to pass a much needed mill levy increase. For our collaborative efforts to engage with our community, the entire staff held a design thinking-style brainstorming session. We tossed out as many advocacy ideas as we could possibly come up with together. No idea was too crazy as we pushed ourselves to think beyond current efforts.
As I looked over the list later, I realized that the ideas I was most drawn to were the ones I could fit into my already full workload and accomplish in thirty minutes or less. I needed actionable, fairly inexpensive ideas that I could weave into my everyday workflow and iterate fairly easily. That, I realized, was what engaging Everyday Advocacy could be for me and my library.
We prototyped two simple ideas — one for advocacy inside the library and one for advocacy in the community. For the community, we designed a series of “Did You Know?” bookmarks, printed on cardstock and distributed to businesses, eateries, the post office, and town hall (left photo). For the library, we started a new habit of posting a few casual learning objectives on a dry erase board outside the program room for every children’s program (top photo). My goal was to increase awareness of the children’s resources we offer and to counteract the impression that children’s programming is little more than free babysitting.
Both simple advocacy tools proved at least somewhat successful in my community. Users come in asking about services or materials they learned about from the bookmarks and folks without young children regularly comment on how interesting, important, surprising, or wonderful it is that we’re offering such accessible educational children’s programs.
Last November, we won our ballot initiative with 59% of the vote. I’d like to think that the “thirty minutes or less” approach to weaving advocacy into our daily work was an important part of our library’s success. As we look towards 2020, we continue to engage in small acts of advocacy wherever we can. Everyday Advocacy isn’t just for election years. It’s something that I can and must continue to make space for on my shelf on a routine basis.
Do you have any quick and easy, daily advocacy ideas that you use at your library? Or any that you’ve thought of but haven’t had a chance to test out yet? Let’s see if we can generate our own crazy list of potential “thirty minutes or less” advocacy ideas right here on the ALSC Blog!
Kate Brunner is a member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. She is the Southwest & Central Regional Early Literacy Specialist for the Colorado State Library’s Growing Readers Together initiative. She also serves as the Children’s Services Manager at Pine River Library in Bayfield, Colorado.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: V. Outreach and Advocacy.