From Public Libraries 2020 Libraries Change Lives campaign
Advocacy for public libraries
The Public Libraries 2020 youtube clip clearly shows the importance of libraries. Anyone who has ever used a public library knows how important they are and how and why they change lives – through new skills, information, meeting people and as a safe space for enjoyment, the public library is one of the few places that everyone in that community can use.
People rely on the help, information and services the library provides at different stage in their lives. Increasing the libraries profile through advocacy highlights the changing role of libraries and the ranges of services they offer the wide community to both regular and infrequent library users. National Libraries Day each year allows us to profile our public library service to the wider community through events throughout the borough, actively encouraging people to come in and see what services are available to use, including story times, craft sessions and digital drop-in training sessions. These are then promoted through our social media presence.
This year I was involved in the National Libraries Day campaign, organising a competition through social media asking library users to tweet photos showing why they love their local library:
On the day itself we asked visitors to write on paper hearts, why they loved their local library to put up on display throughout the day. Users highlighted a range of the essential services on these hearts. Whilst we were able to see what people on the day felt were important to them, we were also able to gage how much people knew of other services we provided from what was said, and what they enjoyed. It was a chance to get constructive feedback and well as appreciative ‘Thank Yous’, which boosted staff morale, especially when specific staff were names for their expertise..
This year, Johnny Rotten was involved in the National promotional campaign helping counteract the current media commentary that seems to always get back to ‘Why do we need libraries now when we have Google’ comment.
National Libraries Day is exactly that, an annual event we can look forward to for a day of promoting the value of libraries and that’s great, but advocacy needs to be everyday especially during these austere times when library closure are all too common or libraries are being compromised through reduced/shared space and professional staffing. Speak Up For Libraries and Voices for the Library come in, as they are highlighting the situation libraries are currently facing with Speak Up For Libraries hosting an annual conference. Both organisations give awareness regarding the current situation facing public libraries in the UK and advocate the role of public libraries to a wider audience including politicians and to the media.
Fighting the apathy
Mainstream media always seems to go back to a very old and out-of-date image of libraries, as though they are a relic of the past and not necessary, Advocacy is needed now more than ever to challenge these outdated stereotypes to correctly inform the public of the services we offer and also promoting the importance of our professionally trained and skilled staff for providing up-to-date information, literary and public services. We need to stand tall and proud about what we offer as libraries, why you cannot get our services elsewhere and why libraries, including their trained professional staff need to be in community discussions as part of education, heritage, arts and health/wellbeing for a civilised, educated, healthy and creative community.
We are important.
Last year BBC Radio 6 Music broadcast a special ‘Celebrating Libraries’ season during November 2014. Part of their advocacy for libraries included Scroobius Pip’s specially written poem:
Listening to ‘Pip explain the importance of libraries made me full of pride in the profession, the services we offer and of our essential ‘need’ to our communities and why we must be advocates at all times for libraries.
BBC Radio 6 Music will repeat their ‘Celebrating Libraries’ theme in 2015 , with their library celebrations ending this weekend with a range of events for all ages displaying the range of resources that modern libraries offer, highlighting Manchester Central Library as a central community hub. Mainstream media like this is a fantastic support to libraries, reaching out to all music lovers of all ages promoting the link between libraries and the arts (nice one BBC 6 Music!)
to quote author, Hari Kunzru:
” Libraries set people free …they are not luxuries or relics..we must fight to save them“