Blogger Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee

We Know Our Worth: Self-Advocacy in Librarianship

Many readers will be able to identify with the following statements: I love my job. I enjoy the people and communities I work with. Every day is different and presents new opportunities and challenges.  

Many readers may also be able to identify with these statements: 

  • Had someone imply because we love our jobs, librarians can work for less. 
  • Heard someone say, “No one goes into librarianship for the money.” 

We also don’t go into librarianship expecting to not be able to pay our bills. It’s time to recognize that enjoying our work and being paid our worth are not mutually exclusive. So, what can we do? We can start advocating for ourselves to our administration, boards, and communities. 

First, let’s see if you are making a living wage by using the MIT Living Wage Calculator. This tool will help determine how much an individual needs to make to live in different counties throughout the U.S. For our purposes, we will focus on the first column; if you were a single person with no kids, would you make enough to live in your county? If the answer is “no,” that is a good starting point for your self-advocacy. 

Now it’s time to craft the rest of your case. Besides wanting to make enough to live in the communities in which we work, it helps that we do great work! ALA has developed an Advocacy Action Plan Workbook that may be of use. With a few tweaks, this toolkit can break down advocacy steps and help you advocate for yourself. You can access the full workbook at this link, but we are going to adjust the steps a bit to fit your self-advocacy needs: 

Build your team: Will your supervisor or manager speak about the good work you have done? Who else can speak on your behalf?  

Develop your message: Do members of your community understand the benefits of library programs on childhood development? For example, during a game night, explain that participants are not only having fun but are working on their reading comprehension (reading instructions), communication skills (playing with others), and sportsmanship. 

Get your message out: How does your library report to the community? One common way is to write a thorough board report to ensure trustees know what you are doing and how it is beneficial. Let them know about the behind the scenes work that goes into a well-developed program! Highlighting programs and their benefits, such as in the example above, on social media is another way.  

Put it all together: Speak to your supervisor and/or director about why you deserve a raise, and how that can be incorporated into the next budget. 

One more benefit to self-advocacy: you’ll set a good example for those just starting. If we want to grow our profession and draw more diverse talent, we need to pay newcomers a respectable salary. To pave the way for those to come, we must start speaking up for ourselves and what we are worth now.  

This post addresses ALSC competency I.5 Demonstrates respect for diversity and inclusion of cultural values, and continually develops cultural awareness and works to address implicit bias in order to provide inclusive and equitable service to diverse populations. 

Joanna Goldfarb is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee.  She can be reached at jgoldfarb@rcls.org. 

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