Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grassroots library advocacy with ALA Editions webinar

ALA Editions has the link to an informative free webinar, Introducing Grassroots Library Advocacy, archived at its blog. The webinar was presented on Aug. 2 and I listened to it last night and today.

The presenters, Lauren Comito with Cornell University, Aliqae Geraci with Queens Library and Christian Zabriskie with Queens Library, present an overview of tools and tactics for effective library advocacy.

Initial note-taking consisted of live-Tweeting while listening to the event. I used the hashtag that was promoted during the original live broadcast.

I then curated a Storify of the Grassroots Library Advocacy webinar.

The presenters noted that each year brings a fresh round of cuts to libraries and already-stressed patrons and staff. Libraries are having to do more with less. According to Geraci, the library supporter “can’t afford not to be an activist.”

Zabriskie suggested articulating specific goals and communicating what would be the consequence if the goals are not met. An example I draw is from the pending election for the Ashland Library levy that is on the November ballot.

Measure 15-113 would renew a levy that was originaly approved in November 2008 and expires in summer 2013. According to an explanatory statement for Measure 15-113, the levy authorizes the City of Ashland to levy up to 21 cents per $1,000 assessed value each year to provide enhanced library services.

Renewal of the levy would maintain library hours at 40 hours per week. Without the levy, library hours would be reduced to only 24 hours per week. That seems like a clearly-defined consequence to me.

(The levy will also finance three additional full-time employees or the equivalent and enhanced outreach programs for teens, seniors and children.)

The presenters recommended using multiple platforms to deliver the message of advocacy: Facebook, Twitter, blog posts and live-streaming as well as off-line approaches: postcards, rallies and other events. Webinar topics included finding and keeping volunteers and communication with the media.

I did find the following areas for improvement in subsequent presentations. With each new segment, the new presenter was not identified, which made it difficult for me to attribute points to the presenter who made them.

Also, in my capacity as a web and print journalist and a two-term vice president of PR for a local Toastmasters club, I offer supplemental public relations advice for effectively communicating with the media.

Your media contact will vary whether you are writing a letter to the editor, submitting an announcement or requesting coverage of an event.

Bottom line: this is a valuable presentation for building library advocacy. Even without an election on the horizon as it is for the Ashland Library, libraries constantly need advocates to communicate their value to the community.

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