Winter 2001

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

Advocacy Now! How?

By Edwin M. Field, NYSALB Director, TRUSTEE Editor

Winter 2001 issue of Trustee

Perhaps it’s time to begin thinking seriously about developing a top-flight advocacy organization, an organization whose basic responsibility would be to represent the interests of all libraries and library organizations in New York State.  The prime goal of this union would be to make sure that through aggressive advocacy there would be a consistent annual level of state funding for library operation, monies to keep pace with technology and basic information purchases and sufficient funding for potential expansion and building purposes.


Presently, NYSALB, NYLA, PULISDO and other state associations are actively involved in advocacy programs. Their other responsibilities are so broad, however, that each organization must spread itself extremely thin to accomplish even their current goals. The effort that I speak of might well be titled “total advocacy.”  Total advocacy may require a broader focus that is more constant, possibly a new, different and creative approach.


Consider another step in the advocacy process. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about selecting an individual whose prime responsibilities would be advocating for libraries and training trustees, librarians and others to maximize advocacy support. More time must be spent on the actual task of advocacy. This individual would bear the responsibility for opening and maintaining a constant line of informational communications with library organizations, statewide. To begin with the “advocate” might work only part time. As the task increased, so would the responsibilities and remuneration. The funding of the individual might come a little from each of the current organizations.


I recognize that concerned library people have been involved in advocacy for years. The results in the advocacy area, however, have only met with marginal success. Isn’t it time for the library world to join the “big boys?”


Don’t get me wrong, up to now, we’ve been working hard trying to do the right things. A lot has been accomplished. LEGISLATIVE day in Albany, for example, is an accepted technique for library people. Designed specifically for trustees to meet with legislators and legislative leadership, the process has been in place for quite a few years now. It’s advocacy at the grass roots level!  Another of our advocacy efforts has been to regularly meet, greet and discuss library matters with legislators on their home turf. We’ve even tried, of course, to get pre-election and post-election commitments from our political representatives to support libraries at legislative budget time.  Member items at the end of each session are fine but this is not the “bread and butter” support level really needed.


Perhaps an active PAC (Political Action Committee) might spur things along. After all, this advocacy approach appears to be the technique of choice for vast numbers of vibrant organizations and associations on both state and federal levels. However, for money-strapped libraries and library organizations this is probably a far reach, or is it?  An active library advocacy organization might just be able to raise community awareness to the point where public interest groups could be generated who would actually develop a PAC for libraries. Others organizations have accomplished it. The organization might also develop one or more creative fund raising programs to annually fund an active library PAC.


There are questions about the advocacy process that have to be asked and answered.  How do we keep up with the rest of the pack? How do we become more effective, efficient and energized when it comes to seeking legislative support on a continuing basis? How do we make sure that the powers that be recognize our needs along with those of the multitude of statewide and regional organizations of all kinds vying for funding?  Most important, how do we make sure that our legislators, statewide, recognize libraries and the information they offer on their shelves, in their computers and from helpful reference librarians are indispensable to those individuals, industries and businesses that make up our communities.  Legislators must also know that libraries are often a contributing factor for industries and individuals selecting a region in which to settle, build and grow. 


Library advocacy has multiple goals. The end objective is to “get a fair share of the budget funding pie” on a continuing basis.  To do this it must  help our  legislators and others clearly recognize the importance of libraries to the culture and economic development of our communities. To date, collectively, our efforts have not met the results test for Advocacy #101. This is why we have to look into other approaches.

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