Wrapping Up a Busy Year

Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 08:25
Authors, toolkits, and contests create a combined force for library advocates

For my last message as ALA president, I’d like to update members and others on the initiatives that were kicked off at the Inaugural Banquet last June and offer a brief comment on recent events that affect the future of libraries.

With “Our Authors, Our Advocates: Authors Speak Out For Libraries,” we tapped into a rich source of support using widely recognized individuals who understand and value libraries. By the time this year’s Annual Conference occurs in New Orleans, public service announcements (PSAs) will have been videotaped with David Baldacci, Carmen Agra Deedy, Sharon Draper, Neil Gaiman, Brad Meltzer, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Sara Paretsky, Kathy Reichs, Scott Turow, and Mo Willems. The PSAs are available at ilovelibraries.org for libraries to download to their homepages and spread the message. Authors have also expressed their willingness to step forward with op-ed articles to assist libraries in dealing with what we know will be a difficult budgetary environment for the next few years.

“Our Authors, Our Advocates” is a multifaceted initiative that included the creation of the Cultivating Your Local Notables online toolkit and an update of the Library Quotes database. Local Notables, filled with tips on identifying and recruiting people in the community to advocate for libraries, is available through ALA’s Advocacy University. Library Quotes, also at ilovelibraries.org, enables library advocates to use the words of authors, celebrities, politicians, historic figures, and others to develop their unique case for funding libraries. ALA Graphics also has a poster for sale that features “Our Authors, Our Advocates” participants offering meaningful quotes about the power of libraries.

Given the challenging fiscal situation, libraries are exploring new opportunities to supplement established funding sources. The Frontline Fundraising online toolkit is targeted at libraries with little or no experience in reaching out to donors. It contains information on formulating a fundraising plan, identifying prospects, and enlarging a base of contributors. Different types of gift opportunities and ways to recognize those who have been generous to libraries are described. The toolkit is accessible in flipbook, pdf, and html formats.

The “Why I Need My Library” contest, with teen-created YouTube videos, experimented with a new group of potential library advocates: young people in the 13–15 and 16–18 age groups. Substantial cash prizes for the winners in each category will be awarded with the requirement that the money be donated to their school or local public library.

Interviews were plentiful during my presidential term as issues continued to surface and gather media attention, including the privatization of libraries, access to e-books, and limitations on e-book distribution. At the heart of many of the discussions was the increasing concern about the future of libraries. The growing deficits at local, state, and national levels have resulted in unwise decisions to cut funding past the point where libraries can effectively respond to the millions who depend on them every day. We know that an informed and educated electorate is the foundation of our democracy and ultimately the long-term economic and social health of our nation.

Just as we spoke out so bravely about the threats to privacy in the Patriot Act, we and others must do the same now as budget debates occur everywhere. It is essential that the people who work in and love libraries use the advocacy tools developed by ALA with passion and persistence to fight back. We cannot let our libraries be starved to death.

Every ALA president begins their term with the goal of moving the ball further down the field. As promised, I have given my time and energy to doing so. Thank you for your support.