Saturday, March 10, 2012

Empowering Voices: Communities Speak Out for Libraries

Molly Raphael, President of the American Library Association, was a delightful speaker on the topic of how to reach out to our various stakeholders and have them effectively promote libraries. She talked about the Snapshot Day program and how it enlists the frontline staff in sharing what happens in showcasing an average day at a library. She showed the ALA’s webpage of resources for that program.

Molly also talked about the importance of identifying your library's community and engaging their help. When the session attendees shared what they were doing it was interesting to hear about one public library that had turned to its fishermen patrons who were heavy library users for support. Another school library was looking to grandparents who valued the help the library provided the children they were helping care for.

Molly spoke about how it is important to have advocates speaking out about libraries all the time, not just at budget time. The group talked about strategies to engage the community and make it easy for them to speak out. One person shared using food and doorprizes to attract participants in for brainstorming and others talked about providing pre-addressed stamped envelopes as well as email addresses for important dignitaries. Also mentioned was the value of getting people to shape messages about the library being essential (helped find a job) versus just ‘loving the library.’ It is necessary to help people be comfortable sharing that kind of message as well. Sue Sherif mentioned the need to talk about the programs and services rather than the warehouse of books. It is helpful to know the actual capital value of our collections when promoting the facility. And in many instances (like the White House petition to support school libraries) it is not always what you say but how many people you can muster to say it that counts. So figuring out how to harness the power of social media and networking to get vast numbers of supporters is very important.

I went away from the session feeling that Molly is very approachable and that she and her team are there to help.

1 comment:

  1. In her introduction of Molly, June Pinnell-Stephens spoke of the library as being the place for ‘civic engagement’ and a venue for communication. During Molly’s tenure as ALA president, it has been her focus to emphasize advocacy and the power of community.

    I told Molly at the end of her session that I was impressed with her down-to-earth nature and approachability. Often times it is my perception that our highest leadership is way beyond the reasoning scope of ‘little people’ like myself. But Molly addressed everything in my terms. I appreciate that. Go Molly!

    Having recently been given the blow that a library assistant was under the proposed cuts for next school year, my advocacy mode has been in full swing this past month. The school board has seen me three times in three weeks. I am basically not a public speaker but I intend to be much more visible to our board, parents, students and community. Advocacy has to take you beyond your school walls. I feel empowered!