One difference between the American Library Association Conference and that of the German Library Association is that Americans begin their meetings where the Germans end theirs, that is, on the weekend. It is Friday and the flight from New York to Chicago was full of librarians. Chicago fairly abounds with the (rather inconspicuous) totes handed out on registration. My impression thus far is that Chicago is not an ideal city in which to hold a conference: almost all of the hotels are so far removed from the conference center that one has to take a shuttle bus to get there. As many of the events are also held in different hotels, the decision on which of them to attend is influenced by what is involved in getting there.
I chose to attend “Surviving in a Tough Economy: An Advocacy Institute Workshop”. Though it cost $50 extra, it afforded not only the opportunity to speak with truly interesting presenters, but to take away a folder full of materials and handouts. Among the presenters were former ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano, ALA Director Keith Michael Fiels and Marci Merola, the head of the ALA’s Advocacy Office. The group of eight presenters met in pairs with 10 workshop participants for 15 minutes each, before moving on to the next group. So each participant could take part in 4 mini-workshops, each of which informed us on different aspects of lobbying. In the smaller groups it was also possible for participants to bring up examples of their own lobbying work and to talk about their specific issues and problems.
It was stressed over and over again that it is important to maintain a positive attitude and not complain about the fact that politicians and policy-makers must be convinced that libraries also, and particularly, are in need of sufficient endowment in difficult times. The presenters collected from participants cases in point of their lobby work, preferably positive ones that had met with success. In this context I found it interesting that one colleague stated quite clearly that she already had tried everything included in the handbook for lobbying work, but that policy-makers who control the fate of her library increasingly are exhibiting a resistance she cannot overcome. She took note of this or that tip on other things to try, but it was clear that she had very little hope they would work.
Fight hard and don’t give up the effort to sustain your own library is, of course, the operative catchphrase here. But failure is simply a real possibility. A possibility, however, that one should not take personally. When in hard times there are less funds to allot, there will also be those who lose out. And that sometimes can also mean a library.
Saturday, 11. July 2009
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