It’s really easy to sit back and say “something should be done”, and much less easy to do something about it, let alone convince others that they should do something about it too. And even when an excellent campaign is put together, there’s still no guarantee that the recipients will do anything about it.
Two things have really jumped out at me today: the ongoing discussion “Library Campaigns. What Next.” on the LIS-Profession email list, and the recently-announced LISNPN competition. I think it’s extremely interesting that one cohort is choosing to spend their energies deploring the current situation, whilst the other is doing their best to get people to do something about it.
Of course, some of the points made on the discussion list are extremely valid, and equally one might argue that a bunch of random acts of advocacy won’t necessarily make much difference to the overall picture, but I know which general approach makes me proud to be part of this profession, and which route fills me with gloom.
One participant in the list discussions observed that events like Save Libraries day are all very well, but what do they actually achieve in a lasting way (I paraphrase), and I think this is a really good point – how do we bring all the fantastic advocacy work together? Yes, undoubtedly, media coverage, enhanced footfall, mass promotion of library services etc etc are all extremely good things, but how can we harness all of these to make the point in the longer term, and on a larger scale? Are there national statistics for what Feb 5th achieved, is there a map of where protests and read-ins took place, not to mention attendance figures from the events, and what happens next?
Part of the inspiration to write this post also came from last night’s Ignite London event. @girlinthe gave a great presentation about libraries (which went down really well with the audience as a whole, not just the appreciative librarians in the room!), and I really admire her for having the guts to put herself forward for this. I love the Ignite events, they’re a great showcase for the informative and the bizarre, but I did find myself wondering what the point of them are, really. Yes, they’re lots of fun, and I certainly always learn stuff from them, but what kind of impact do they actually make overall? Does anyone do anything with the information they acquire, or do they just enjoy the experience and move on?
With this thought in mind, back to the Save Libraries movement – are there strategies in place to capture the impact of all the fantastic advocacy work people all around the country are doing, and is it actually getting through to anyone at the right level (whether the target is library users, local councillors, politicians, or the media)? In a climate of badly thought-out, hack-and-burn style cuts we need some hard figures as to why libraries need to be preserved. Librarians are super-good at presenting anecdotal evidence, and this is really useful too, but maybe a few well-constructed (and well-publicised) business cases would also help to demonstrate the worth of libraries to those who seem entirely oblivious to the human angle.
I think the idea behind the LISNPN competition is brilliant – “every single entry to this competition will be a little piece of library advocacy” – and I hope lots of people enter. I am also really looking forward to seeing how all the results are presented, and I hope the organisers are working out how they are going to play their part in making sure this gets the widest possible publicity (though perhaps they would argue that the onus for that is on the entrants…!).
And yes, I’m very conscious that at the moment I’m taking the lazy route through all of this myself, commenting rather than doing anything about it myself (except continuing to utilise two public libraries). I really want to enter the LISNPN competition, and have got my thinking cap well-and-truly on (though I must admit I’m not terribly imaginative, and no inspiration has been forthcoming as yet), and I’ve also recently joined a CILIP branch committee in the hope I can play a small part from within the organistion. I’m actually quite cross with myself that I haven’t come up with anything better than this so far, and I would love to know if there’s anything else I could be doing – so if you’ve got any suggestions do give me a shout!
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