There are common misconceptions that libraries are essentially museums for books, nobody uses libraries anymore, and everything libraries offer can instead be accessed online. These could not be further from the truth, but these misconceptions are often the reason libraries need to advocate. It is the responsibility of librarians to dispel these inaccurate misconceptions and to educate folks on the continued importance of libraries.
Advocacy should be an ongoing process, so libraries, librarians, trustees, and other library stakeholders need to be proactive with advocacy. But where does one start? Advocacy can be intimidating for some. Thankfully, there are numerous free resources available online to help you.
Great places to start (in no particular order):
- Advocacy (State Library of Iowa)
- Library Advocate’s Handbook (American Library Association)
- Advocacy (Public Library Association) – “Through tools, training, and education, PLA is committed to providing you with information and resources to help you become an even better advocate for your library.”
- Advocacy in Action (WebJunction)
- Advocacy Toolkit (Illinois Library Association)
- Your Voice Counts (ilovelibraries.org)
- YALSA Handouts and Flyers (Young Adult Library Services Association)
- AASL Advocacy Brochures (American Association of School Librarians)
Statistics, numbers, and data:
Statistics and fun facts are a sensible method to prove the worth of libraries. Statistics can be very eye-opening for people who may not know enough about libraries. For example:
- In 2017, there were more people who visited North Dakota public libraries (2,162,559) than those who attended Minnesota Vikings games (1,099,905).
- In the United States, there are more public libraries than McDonald’s or Starbucks.
- Americans visit public, school, and academic libraries more than 3 times as frequently as they go to the movies.
Numbers can really drive the point home. However, don’t use too many figures. That may overwhelm folks. Consider doing something fun with the data, like an infographic. Infographics are brief and visual. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create an infographic. You can easily create free infographics online by using the website Canva.
To view the data from past annual reports, you can view the usage maps (see link below) or you can contact the State Library to get a copy of the raw data in an Excel Spreadsheet.
The State Library creates a fun infographic every year based on the data that is submitted by North Dakota public libraries on their annual reports. The infographics are available as PDFs on the State Library’s website (see link below).
You can also retrieve data and fun facts from national resources, such as ALA and IMLS (see links below).
- ND Public Library Usage Statistics (North Dakota State Library) – annual infographics and usage maps
- Quotable Facts about America’s Libraries (American Library Association) – includes fun facts on public, school, and academic libraries
- Public Library Survey Publications (Institute of Museum and Library Services)
- Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Data and Reports (Institute of Museum and Library Services) – over 25 years’ worth of reports and publications (*helpful hint: take a look at the “State Profiles” links to view infographic-like reports of each state)
Value of libraries/ return on investment:
- Library Value Calculator (American Library Association) – How valuable is your library? Use this calculator to help determine your library’s return on investment.
- An Excel Spreadsheet version of this Library Value Calculator can be downloaded here (this version is easier to print and the data can be easily updated): library-value-calculator.xlsx
It is important to know who your local, state, and federal legislators are in case you need to reach out to them. Be on friendly terms and have a positive relationship with your elected officials, as you want them to support libraries.
- North Dakota Legislative Branch (State of North Dakota)
- Congress.gov (United States)
- Talking to Legislators (State Library of Iowa) – tips on how to talk/ write to legislators and how to be an effective legislative advocate
Importance of libraries:
- Speeches (State Library of Iowa) – sample speeches on the importance of libraries and how tax dollars are used
- How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities (Pew Research Center)
- 7 Reasons Libraries Are Essential Now More Than Ever (Bustle)
- Ten Reasons Libraries Are Still Better Than the Internet (American Libraries)
- 5 Good Reasons to Take Your Kids to the Library Today (Huffington Post)
- Why Are School Libraries Essential? (ilovelibraries.org)
- 35 Ways a Library Can Save You Money (DoughRoller)
- Why a (now-deleted) op-ed about replacing libraries with Amazon blew up the internet (CNN)
North Dakota resources:
- North Dakota State Library
- Library Development (North Dakota State Library)
- Field Notes blog (North Dakota State Library) – posts relating to advocacy
- North Dakota Library Association
- North Dakota Public Library Trustee Manual (North Dakota State Library) – page 26
Additional resources from ALA: