Monday, 10 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 16 - Advocacy

We are living in interesting times. I've started my library career in the middle of an economic and political storm. Global economic crisis, a government that's decided cutting public spending is the solution, tight budgets everywhere etc. In the middle of the storm public libraries have become a symbol of what we stand to lose if we focus entirely on balancing budgets.

You all know all this. Perhaps that has been my problem with advocacy in terms of taking part in the public debate. I'm not sure what I have to say that isn't already being said. But then perhaps I'm just looking for an excuse because I can't claim to have played much of a part in the great library survival debate.

Thing 16 asks us to think about what we are doing to convince people that libraries deserve their support. All kinds of libraries obviously.

At the CoFHE Conference this summer one of the speakers showed us a map of the country with all the library closures marked on in it. It was very similar to this library closure map from the nice people at Voices for Libraries. It is a scary sight. We can't underestimate the scale of the crisis.

On the other hand it is reassuring to see all the people who come together when local libraries are threatened. It is a cause that unites people from across any community. There is a reason why critics of the cuts like to use libraries as their favourite example.

The situation with college libraries is slightly different to the crisis facing public libraries. Barring the fallout of mergers and other reorganisations most college libraries aren't living under the threat of actual extinction. Budgets are very tight right across the public sector though. Libraries that are part of educational institutions need to justify their place within the organisation. We need to show that the resources spent on supporting our service have a real impact on students' learning and attainment. Like all libraries we need to show that we make a difference to the lives of our users. We also need to show that non-users are missing out.

My job title is "Liaison Librarian". The CPD post for thing 16 considers the possibility that advocacy will soon appear on all library job descriptions. Advocacy is already part of my job description. I'm a Liaison Librarian because I liaise with the teaching staff within the subject areas that I support. It's my job to show them how much we can do to help them and their students. I have to be an advocate for our service. It is a central part of my role at the College.

We all advocate just by doing our jobs. Every happy library user is a potentially a voice raised in support of your service if those storm clouds come too close.

Should I be doing more? Probably. Publication is definitely a possible route but I should look into other options. It's not just about my career a world with fewer libraries is a world with less space for thought, fewer dreams and less hope.

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