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Seven Steps for Library Campaigners by Jenny DesFountain

Category: Blog, Campaigning for Libraries

The following blog post was written for our Campaigning for Libraries series that we ran as part of Libraries Week 2019. The blog series features writing from various people who have been involved in library campaigns over the past few years. The hope is that the advice provided might help others interested in doing something similar. If you have been involved in a campaign and would like to add your perspective or if you would like support from CILIPS in starting a campaign please email us at admin@cilips.org.uk. 

Jenny helped lead a campaign in Argyll and Bute that aimed to save the school librarians in the local authority. 

  1. Congratulations! You have found CILIPS: the best source of information and support.
  2. Do your research: who else has been in this position? What were their methods, their successes and failures? 
  3. Identify and recruit influencers: library users, parents, “weel kent” local folk, authors, MSP, MP, Councillors, those they listen to…Lone voices are more easily ignored: many voices create a thunder rumbling in the direction of local Councillors. Become the issue they want to get off their desks, phones and emails. Ask people to help by signing a petition and by contributing campaign ideas. Make it easy for them to write to all Councillors or to meet with their local Councillor. Ask them to raise library issues in their own sphere of influence e.g. Parent Councils. Keep them informed about the campaign’s progress.
  4. Inform and educate: you’ll be surprised how many assumptions folk make about libraries, librarians and their role in our increasingly technology-centred lives. Make the facts available. In a rural authority, for example, closing secondary school libraries means many youngsters are left without access to a library at all, given poor public transport to public libraries with very restricted opening times.
  5. Spell out the value of current provision and the implications of cuts. One way to do this is to celebrate libraries. Give a voice to library users and broadcast their messages on social media, in letters to Councillors, in local newspapers, on your campaign’s facebook page, by opening an online petition: any way you can devise. Campaigning for school libraries, current and former pupils wrote about the role of the school librarians in their learning. Some made a film about it. They shared their views and the community listened to them.
  6. Consider a legal challenge. Do the proposed cuts contravene the Council’s legal obligations, in terms of provision? Freedom of Information requests will help you find out if the due processes have been followed. Ask to see the Equality Impact Assessment. Was there a process of consultation? What account was taken of the outcomes of that process? If your Council’s processes are flawed, you may be able to stop proposed cuts.
  7. Be persistent: seek a range of ways of communicating and responding. Nurture your allies. Do everything you can to ensure those in power understand the impact of their proposals. And comfort yourself: at very least, you are raising awareness about the issues.