Discussion Topic: Library advocacy & lobbying

Photo: "The Advocate" CC-NC by Gary Sauer-Thompson

Photo: “The Advocate” CC-NC by Gary Sauer-Thompson

Advocacy  is arguably one of the core skills all librarians should possess.

So many libraries around the world are facing uncertain futures. There is never enough money or resources or staff to go around and even in comparatively wealthy libraries there is a continual need to demonstrate the value the  library offers both their community and parent organisation. This is why advocacy is such an important skill for our profession: to have the ability to effectively promote & advance yourself, your workplace and your profession is invaluable, and gives you and your library the best chance of survival. But what really is advocacy anyway, and how can we build your advocacy skills?

As Sue McKerracher describes in Your Guide: 10 steps to successful advocacy, it is helpful to consider it as a distinct activity separate from lobbying:

“The two are often mentioned in the same sentence, but they are different and require a different approach and tone of voice. Advocacy is the continuous process of promoting positive messages about your library and information service. It is something that never stops. Lobbying is a much more specific activity, within a defined period, with a clear goal in mind. The important thing to remember is that great advocacy creates a strong platform for lobbying initiatives.” (InCite, v. 31, i.11, p.20)

There are lots of different circumstances and different ways you could find yourself advocating for libraries. Examples could include: writing your monthly report at work, talking to a client about the services or collections available at your library, telling a new acquaintance you are a librarian (and then spending 10 minutes explaining what a librarian actually does all day – ie. not reading books).

So for this month’s discussion we want to know:

  • Is there an library advocacy or lobbying campaign you’ve loved? What made it stand out for you? (Stay tuned to our blog as we will share examples from around the world)
  • What are some examples of how you have been an advocate for libraries? How did it work out?
  • What are 3 ways in which you think you could become a better advocate?

To help with this last one I’d like to leave you with a few links on ‘how to be a better advocate’. We hope they will provide food for thought for our latest discussion topic but also provide opportunities for you to develop your skills in this area even further:


  1. […] stories we might otherwise have not been able to, if we were relying on traditional media outlets. Library advocacy is stronger and louder with the use of social media – attracting supporters to campaigns to save […]

  2. […] am linking up with the International Librarians Network with their discussion topic about Library advocacy for my third blogging in June (#blogjune) […]

  3. Wendy Newman · · Reply

    And I’ll add here that the archive will remain online until the end of August 2014. Wendy Newman

  4. Wendy Newman · · Reply

    Hi all. An Australian colleague sent me the link to this site. The University of Toronto MOOC is my course. I do expect to offer it once more, early in 2015, but will know for certain in the Fall. It will be announced on http://www.edx.org, or you can find my email address on the Faculty of Information Web site, University of Toronto. Best regards. Wendy Newman

    1. Wonderful news! Thanks for keeping us updated Wendy.

  5. Megan · · Reply

    The University of Toronto recently offered a MOOC called “Library Advocacy Unshushed”: https://www.edx.org/course/university-torontox/university-torontox-la101x-library-1335#.U3hXAPmSx8E. It’s over now, but I think that the material is still available. If not, perhaps it will be offered again!

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