I of course attended several of the presentations and podium discussions at the ALA, above all, those that dealt with the subject of this year’s “Librarian in Residence” program, “Lobby Work”. Rather than list these sessions individually I will attempt – in no particular order – to put together a few ideas that I found especially interesting:
- Libraries often are not important to the policy-makers themselves. Few politicians or sponsors actually visit libraries. But libraries can make the lives of those who do the prep work for policy-makers a great deal easier. A politician’s personal staff, for instance, are grateful for the support that libraries offer in doing background research, and it is they who have a direct connection to the policy-makers.
- Libraries whose funding has been cut by mayors or university presidents often have only very limited freedom in organizing opposition to these decisions. “Friends of the Library” organizations, on the other hand, are subject to no such limitations when it comes to protests.
- When politicians announce that they want to dedicate themselves to an issue, this is the time to establish a relationship between them and the library and to create more direct interest than would a general campaign for libraries. If education is the issue, libraries’ contribution to education should be put front and center. On the issue of health, libraries could point to how many people use the library to research health issues. Politicians whose issue is economic recovery might be interested in the fact that small and mid-sized businesses in particular make use of the research capabilities a library provides.
(One of Claudia Lux’s favorite stories involves an entrepreneur who developed a new and very successful method for the application of manure and who explained that he actually never used libraries nor did he need to. But what he didn’t realize – which came out in further conversation with him – was that the dissertation that gave him the crucial information he needed in developing his new method had been posted on the Internet by a library.)
- Concrete examples of the work of libraries and concrete descriptions of the effects of cutbacks are always more effective than numbers or statistics. And most policy-makers (and not only they) are especially receptive when these concrete examples have to do with the work libraries do for children.
- One shouldn’t exaggerate when interviewed by the press, but journalists are better at conveying drastic images than dry reports and numbers.
- “Lobby work” is a concept that in the interim is viewed by many as negative. One alternative currently in mode is “Aufklärung” (which in this context I would translate this as “educating”).
Tuesday, 21. July 2009
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