With the advent of online usage, it’s more critical than ever for librarians to raise the profile of their resources and services by communicating the value they add to their institutions. The following information can help librarians plan and execute an advocacy campaign, or focus on individual lobbying efforts.
How-to tips for advocacy campaigns
Background and talking points to inform advocacy campaigns
- University Investment in the Library, Phase II: An International Study of the Library's Value to the Grants Process (2010) by Carol Tenopir, Amy Love, Joseph Park, Lei Wu, Andrea Baer and Regina Mays, Center for Information and Communication Studies, University of Tennessee
- University Investment in the Library: What's the Return? A Case Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2008) by Judy Luther, President, Informed Strategies
- LIBER Quarterly: The Library as Strategic Investment: Results of the Illinois Return on Investment Study (2008) by Paula T. Kaufman, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Marketing the library
Text that libraries can use to write letters in advocacy campaigns
AnchorLobbying Grassroots Checklist
By Teresa Jennings, Managing Director State and Governmental Affairs, Elsevier, Washington, DC, USA
- Is the institution’s Government Affairs Office working on it?
Find out what lobbying efforts they are making on behalf of your institution. Are there ways that you can supplement their activities, such as specific communications that you can send? Can they provide you with a list of legislators who might be receptive to your message? Can they point to specific legislation about which you can write? A coordinated approach has a better chance of getting noticed.
2. Is there an active legislative proposal?
If so, is the proposal part of a larger budget bill, or is the proposal a stand-alone bill? Do you know the bill number? If not, most state legislatures have Internet websites which allow you to search for a bill by subject matter. In any communications, you would want to reference the bill by the bill number and its title. Legislators work on thousands of proposals during any state legislative session. The more specific you can be on the proposal you would like them to support and why, the more likely the legislator will listen to your advocacy and respond positively.
3. If there is not a legislative proposal currently active, are there efforts underway to have one started?
Groups like NYSHEI in New York may have done important ground work to find the right legislator with the expertise to help support a proposal. Finding the right person to lead the effort sometimes can make the crucial difference between passage and defeat.
4. Is it the right time in the process to weigh in?
Proactive legislation (seeking something to be passed) is much harder to achieve than defensive legislation (seeking to stop or amend legislation). It may mean that efforts may be helpful numerous times in a legislative process (i.e., when the bill has a committee hearing in the house in which it was introduced, when it has a hearing in the other house, or when it is on the Governor’s desk for signature into law). Each of these steps may need information and support, and these activity points may be the crucial times to weigh in.
5. Who are the members the audience you are attempting to convince? Is it a committee? If so, is it House or Senate? Do you know the committee members? Is the communication to go to the Governor’s office?
Knowing your audience will help you tailor your letter to the elected officials making the most imminent decision, and thus your letter will be the most persuasive piece it can be.
What type of communication is best? Generally, the most persuasive communications (by letter or by another means) are ones that are in your own words, speak to the substance of a particular bill, and relate to the current legislative situation.
A powerful communication would be one:
- Giving details on the library you represent
- Describing the economic value (e.g., the number of patents, publications, grants or jobs) resulting from funding already provided to the library
- Estimating the impacts (e.g., the number of additional patents, publications, grants or jobs) of further funding provided to the library
- Talking about the economic impacts of the overall resources of the library as an educational hub for the local, regional or national community it serves
6. Just do it!
Communications to state legislative bodies are best when they are individualized, meaningful to the situation at hand, honest, and informative. One well placed word can make the difference in a legislative effort. You are an important resource in this process.