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2 advocacy fallacies

2nd Rule of Advocacy: Build relationships so others will advocate for you. One parent telling a school board how important he thinks the library program is to his child is more powerful than a dozen studies. One teacher willing to tell the principal that library services have helped her class be more successful secures library funding better than any mandate. One community group that works with school libraries to build information literacy skills is more effective than any set of national standards. We need to make sure we build the kind of relationships with parents, teachers and the community that are strong enough that members of these groups will speak on our behalf when needed. That takes a communication plan that, as Jennifer Stanbro reminds us, has “more positive things to say about what is happening in the library than negative. … People want to invest in things that are going well.” Jennifer also suggests: “Schedule regular program reviews and involve anyone who will participate, even skeptics. Make sure as many people as possible feel like they are partially responsible for the success of the program. If the library is everyone's baby, no one will want to throw it out.” Rules of Advocacy Head for the Edge, LMC, March/April 2012

Word went out on the state's school library listserv last month that a(nother) district has cut all its elementary librarians. I don't know the details, but I can guess budget cuts played a major role. After a career in school libraries spanning more than 40 years, working at local, national and international levels to assure that all children and young adults have access to a vital library program, I feel like a failure when I hear of districts downsizing or eliminating programs.

Library programs that are most secure are those that avoid two common advocacy fallacies. These are:

  1. We can advocate for our own programs. We cannot. The best we can do is build relationships with others who will advocate for us. 
  2. We advocate for library programs, materials, and budgets. We have to always frame advocacy efforts and requests in how it will help our patrons, not our libraries.

Had I started beating the drum of effective advocacy 40 years ago, would we have more secure programs today? It's a question I'll need to live with until dementia sets in, I suppose.

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