The famed Vulcan farewell is an ongoing commitment I have to school librarians and their programs, yet everywhere they are being threatened with elimination. What can you do to turn the tide? The answer is a 3×3 strategy for winning stakeholders.
The first threesome consists of PR, marketing, and advocacy. AASL has simple definitions for the three on its website http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/definitions. PR and marketing are tools for building support from stakeholders. We are not supposed to be the ones advocating. Others should be doing it for us. The challenge is getting them to recognize why they need us.
I have come to realize that the word “advocacy” isn’t resonating with anyone. It has become more of a plea for help in saving our jobs, making us sound weak and needy. Not an image we want to cultivate. How did that happen, and what can be done to change it?
My suggestion is to begin with another threesome: leadership, networking, and legislation. Leadership is first. People must know who you are and what you give them. Note that what you give them must be what they want, not what you think they need. It requires that you get to know your stakeholders and what they value and then be visible in meeting those needs. (Use PR and marketing to help get the word out.)
Networking means outreach and creating relationships. Who do you know? How do you leverage those contacts? What do you give them? How do you acknowledge them? Are you using current methods i.e., social media to maintain the relationships?
Finally become politically aware. Challenges to your program don’t always arise at the district level. Both state and federal governments have negatively impacted our programs. Get alerts from ALA’s Washington Office http://www.ala.org/wo and respond to requests to contact legislators. Better yet, ask your network to do as well. It takes almost no time. Find out what your state association is doing with legislation. Know your local government officials and look for ways to make them welcome in the library—with photo ops.
Is this time consuming? Yes! But putting in the work here (you can create a targeted strategic plan for doing it), could be just what is need to insure you “Live Long and Prosper.” I know many of you are doing this. How did you reach out? What do you suggest to fellow librarians?
AND – If you want help – consider taking advantage of SLW’s new program of “ASK HILDA! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be in touch.