From the Desk of Carol Ann Desch,
Coordinator of Statewide Library Services,
New York State Library

With the start of a new legislative session, it’s a good time to discuss why advocacy is important. Simply put, advocacy is sharing your story. Libraries have many wonderful stories to share,
but the most important one is that libraries of
every type – public, school, academic and special –
are relevant. In fact, libraries are more important
than ever. Libraries of today are so much more
than a repository of books, but not everyone
realizes this. I encourage library trustees and staff
to be proactive and share all the extraordinary
things happening in your libraries that make your
local community thrive!

New York libraries are making a difference in the
communities they serve every single day. It is
important to be vocal and tell others – at the local,
state, and federal level – about the wonderful
materials, programs and services your library offers.
Advocacy stories vary by library – using a 3D printer
to create a tool for a farmer to fix his farm implement,
providing online resources and homework support
for students of all ages, promoting early literacy to
children and families, assisting with workforce
development through resume creation and online
applications, and so much more.
Informal advocacy opportunities present
themselves to trustees all the time. You are
probably engaged in informal advocacy without
even realizing it. Your expert staff are doing the
same – sharing information via social media,
reader’s advisory or reference help, guiding library
customers in using new technologies, or reaching
out to the community at local parks, farmers
markets or other community events. These are all
informal opportunities to show the value of your
library. You may look at these activities as outreach
or community-building – and it is. But these
opportunities also provide you the chance to
advocate on behalf of your library.
Formal advocacy may include working with your
public library system, the New York Library
Association and/or the Library Trustees
Association of New York State in contacting
legislators about library funding or a bill that
impacts libraries, at both the state and federal
levels. It might also include giving a “State of the
Library” report to your village, town, city or
county government, to local voters or to another
funding partner. (See the new edition of Helpful
Information for Meeting Minimum Public Library
Standards for some good tips on developing
effective reports to the community:
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/helpful/index.html).
Trustees and library staff often have opportunities
to present to a community group such as your
local Rotary, Kiwanis, or the Chamber of
Commerce. I encourage you to take any and all
opportunities to tell your library’s story and build
your advocacy muscles. Find the library champions
in your community, and if there are none, create
them. Your library system can help you with expert
advice, training and support. I wish you a Happy
New Year – a year filled with lots of great
opportunities to tell your stories and advocate for
your library, library system, and libraries across
New York State