Advocating for your library is important, but it should not only be done when one needs it the most – advocacy should be something done all throughout the year. In this week’s Princh Library Blog, Brooke King shares her best practices and past experiences on how one can advocate for their libraries.
Advocacy is an important role in our profession. Advocacy is an ongoing process and shouldn’t just begin when in crisis mode. So how do you advocate year-round for your library and library programs?
Continually build relationships. Having a strong relationship with library stakeholders and the community is crucial. Reach out to those potential community partners and invite them to participate in your programs or come tour the library. Thank your school board and administrators publicly when they support your library. Attend meetings and events and introduce yourself. Establish those positive relationships without asking for anything in return. Learn more about your stakeholders. Do their interests and priorities unite with your library’s priorities?
Advertise what you do! Your community may have a preconceived notion of what happens in a school library. Show them all the amazing activities that happen in your space. Show them how valuable the library is to the school’s success. You can do this through traditional news media (and the American Library Association has great tips on how to accomplish this), but you can also use the power of social media.
In Texas, we started the “Let’s Promote Libraries!” Campaign. This social media campaign encourages school librarians to show off what happens in their school libraries to stakeholders. The campaign began with the hopes of encouraging school librarians to promote themselves, their programs, and their instruction. On the first of each month, we encourage school librarians to tweet out what they are doing to promote the Texas Library Standards.
This year we also promoted school libraries throughout the entire month of April for School Library Month. We encouraged librarians to participate in a month-long bingo game. Each day librarians were given a challenge to complete and share on their social media platform of choice using the hashtag #txasl_slm. Challenges ranged from “Give a shout out to the people who help run your school library,” to “How are you a leader on your campus?” Participants posted an image with a description that fit the challenge.
It’s really important to remember to target your stakeholders on the different social media platforms and to form your message with that audience in mind. Your administration and policy makers may all be on Twitter, but you may reach parents better on Instagram or Facebook. Also, don’t forget to reach out to your biggest advocates – your students! Don’t be afraid to try a new platform like TikTok to reach them.
Other tips to make social media advocacy successful:
- Make sure you know your library’s social media policy. If you work for a school district or a public library, you may have restrictions of content that can be published. You also may need to make sure that you have permission to post images of students. Know and follow all guidelines.
- Don’t get too wordy. Twitter is good because it limits your word count. When you use other platforms, make sure you keep it concise.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Use images and graphics to catch your audiences’ attention.
- Tags and hashtags can be helpful in getting your message to the right stakeholders.
- Post often, but not too much. A post a day or a few a week keeps your library in people’s minds, but doesn’t overwhelm them with your message.
Another way to advocate is to join together with like-minded individuals. You can do this by joining local and national library organizations. Get involved in these organizations and share ideas with your personal learning network. Personal learning networks can also be found through social media. Join in Twitter chats or follow librarians you admire. Make sure you interact with the librarians and groups you follow to get the most out of it.
Keep data that is relevant for your cause and align it with terms and goals that match your organization’s. Data that librarians care about may not be what decision makers care about. When presenting data, make it interesting. Consider visuals such as infographics. You can also tell a story using data and images. Convince decision makers of a need and then support that need with data.
Branding just means distinguishing yourself from others. You can do this by your library’s name, a logo, a slogan, or any other feature that is distinct from others. Visibility is important when it comes to branding. Your signs, logos, or images in your physical space and in your virtual space should have consistency. Use your brand everywhere! There are several texts that you can explore for more information on branding: Creating Your Library Brand by Elisabeth Doucett, Breakthrough Branding by Suzanne Walters and Kent Jackson and Start a Revolution: Stop Acting Like a Library by Ben Bizzle.
Just remember that advocacy needs to be started before a crisis begins. It needs to be on-going and consistent to make an impact. Taking a few steps to promote your library in a positive light can pay off in the long run.
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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