Community based advocacy: you can do it, too!
I have worked with public libraries and state libraries across the country to implement these campaigns. During this time, with the help of these libraries and their communities, I've learned a lot about what it takes to do successful community based advocacy for libraries. But do you know what's the most important thing I've learned?
Anyone can do it. You can do it! And now's the time to begin. Here's how...
- Start with the community. Get your priorities aligned with theirs and make sure you are talking about services that matter to them. In order to talk to the community - you have to BE IN the community. This means getting your message outside the walls of the library and into places where people in your community gather. From sporting events to parades to farmer's markets--take your message on the road.
- Use outcome-based information. Tell people why what you're doing is important and how the positive outcomes of what you are doing affect them. If you can tie these outcome-based facts with a patron's personal story even better! The facts will get folks thinking and the emotion of the story will likely cause them to act. Make sure you tell them how to act so they know what to do.
- Don't over inform. As librarians, we have a tendency to want to tell people about everything we do. People lose interest after about three things. Pick your most important, impactful and inspiring stories. Tell them with as few words as you can.
- Use pictures and graphics wherever possible. You know what they say: "a picture is worth a thousand words." Remember to bring these pictures outside of the library and into the community to reach a wider audience of possible supporters.
- Connect, connect, connect. The more you connect with members of the community, the more you influence the community. For every advocate you create, they will likely create 2-3 more advocates from their circle of influence. If you create partnerships with businesses and organizations that you have connected with, then you have created ongoing advocacy opportunities that can be mutually beneficial.
- Start Small: if all of this sounds like a lot to take on at once, start small. Start by practicing your elevator speech about the library with close friends and family. Then begin weaving the speech about your library into conversations. Start by wearing a library t-shirt or carrying a library tote bag to the grocery store or local events. I guarantee you will get positive responses and will be well on your way to being your library's biggest advocate.
Senior Manager, Advocacy Programs
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