CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Guide to Advocacy

What is advocacy?

Advocacy refers to activities carried out by individuals or groups in an attempt to influence decisions and gain support for a cause. Advocacy can be aimed at anybody, including politicians and policy makers, and even the general public such as friends, family, and your local community.

Why advocate?

While many people feel positively about libraries, they do not always do anything about this when library services come under threat. We depend on funders, the government, and lawmakers understanding the importance of LIS work and also on citizens valuing these services, as citizens are the ones who vote and who can demand that their politicians support these services. Therefore, we need to be active in defending our profession.

How do I advocate?

First and foremost, it is important to understand the issue you are advocating for deeply and to gather evidence to support you. You can find some useful evidence on the page for the #LibrariesAreEssential and Libraries Matter campaigns we ran, including a diverse array of evidence banks, case studies, blog posts, supportive quotes and creative contributions. A combination of quantitative and qualitative evidence is especially persuasive. Additionally, you may find if useful to keep up with recent research in the LIS field, which can often demonstrate how crucial library and information services are. A handy guide for easily and freely accessing research can be found here. Submitting a Freedom of Information Request to your local council is another good way to gather information and statistics.

Once you have the right evidence to back you up, there are lots of ways you can start advocating. This can be as simple as chatting to your friends and family about why library and information professionals are important and trying to secure their support. It could also be as easy as using social media, such as Twitter, to engage in conversations with others and post information you find in support of libraries. Most politicians and local councils have a Twitter account and so this can be a useful platform to advocate to your friends/family, local councillors, MSPs etc., by sharing evidence and posts of interest with them through tagging.

You could also start a local campaign group or ‘Library Supporters’ group, using social media to gain interest. This way, you can create a network of like-minded people who can be proactive in campaigning for support and funding of library services, and who can react quickly to any threats from local councils. For example, a Supporters of Argyll and Bute School Libraries Facebook page was launched to campaign against a threatened cut to school librarians. The Facebook page allowed those who wanted to fight against the proposed threats to connect and share resources, and to circulate a petition more easily. Accounts like Save Glasgow Libraries, Save the Couper, Save Maryhill Library and Save Aberdeen Libraries have also used social media to great effect post-pandemic: demonstrating how profoundly members of the public value their libraries and how many dedicated readers were ready and willing to show their support through weekly ‘read-ins’ outside their local branches.

A petition is another way to engage in advocating to the government, known as lobbying. You can find more information on starting a petition here. Another option is to write to your local council, outlining an issue you are unhappy with and why, and also what action you would like the council to take or questions you would like answered.

It can really have an impact if you can get people outside of the profession to support your advocacy, such as members of the wider public, somebody who works for another organisation, or a local councillor or politician. For example, in the campaign we ran with NHS Education for Scotland and Scottish Government eHealth to demonstrate the value of health librarians, The Right Decision, we secured quotes in support of health library services from senior leaders outside of the ILS world. This included quotes from the Chief Nursing Officer from the Scottish Government, NHS Consultants, and the president of Social Work Scotland. #LibrariesAreEssential also featured a wide variety of supportive quotes from authors, commentators, charities and others beyond our sector who are passionate about Scotland’s libraries.

When to advocate?

IFLA advise coordinating your advocacy with wider global and national days and important dates. In this way, you can link libraries to key issues and moments which people are already thinking about. For example, you could promote library and information services around the following key days/events:

  • World Book Day in March
  • National School Librarian Day in April
  • International Literacy Day in September
  • Libraries Week in October
  • Book Week Scotland in November

And finally…

We would really recommend watching this video from the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2019. It is a recording of one of the sessions on advocacy, led by IFLA staff members Stephen Wyber and Kristine Paberza.

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