ALA’s newest office, the Office for Library Advocacy (OLA), became official at the start of ALA’s fiscal year, September 1, 2007. Its existence is a direct response to ALA member needs identified through a number of surveys over the last several years. Advocacy is one of six goal areas in the ALA Ahead to 2010 strategic plan.
The purpose of OLA is to support the efforts of library advocates at the local, state and national level. The office works to create resources, training and peer-to-peer networks to help local advocates fulfill their local advocacy goals for the improvement of libraries of all types. It provides tools to help local advocates make the case for increased library funding, new and expanded buildings, getting bonds and referenda passed, and fighting library budget reductions and closures. Working with the Chapter Relations Office, the new office will help support statewide advocacy efforts, and will work with the Washington Office to strengthen grass roots advocacy at the national level. The office will also work closely with the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA), Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA), and with other ALA groups advocating for specific types of libraries and/or library issues. The Office has grown out of the advocacy function within the Public Information Office will continue many initiatives begun there.
Under the direction of interim director Marci Merola, the office has hit the ground running!
ilovelibraries.org, an advocacy website launched in June 2007, continues to develop. On average, the site receives over 60,000 page views monthly–and in September, ilovelibraries drove more traffic to Booklist Online than Google™ searches!
As a result of efforts by the Chapter Relations Office and the Chapter Relations Committee, 25 state chapters are now using Capwiz advocacy software, which allows viewers (members and the general public) to contact state and national legislators via Ilovelibraries.org. Special 2010 funding will allow the remaining chapters to use this software. Further discussion among Chapter Relations, Washington Office and OLA will address incorporating more library issues into the site and seamless use of Capwiz for both state and national issues.
Ilovelibraries.org has begun promoting the Youth Media Awards, which will be presented during the Midwinter Meeting (Monday morning, January 14). (Use www.ilovelibraries.org/youthmediaawards as your bookmark!). YALSA partnered with Ilovelibraries.org to promote Teen Read Week.
A bit of history: In May of 2005, the Ford Foundation awarded ALA $80,000 to be used towards advocacy efforts. Counting the hree Advocacy Institutes presented during the fall of 2007, a total of 17 were presented under the grant. Although the Ford Foundation grant ends December 31, 2007, the Advocacy Institutes will continue using funds budgeted to the Office for Library Advocacy, both at the national and regional level.The Advocacy Institute Task Force (AITF) of the Public Awareness Committee (PAC) was created to oversee the Ford Foundation Grant and to help institutionalize the Advocacy Institutes into the work of the Library Advocacy Now! (LAN!) Subcommittee of PAC. This Task Force will continue to oversee the Advocacy Institute, looking for ways to increase collaboration and looking for new funding streams. Three Final Advocacy Institutes took place under the Ford Foundation grant in fall of 2007.
Work has begun on Advocacy University (Advocacy U), an online resource to help advocates at the local level. The ultimate goal of this project is two-fold: to have a variety of resources and tools available on each topic and to provide increased trainings at the local level throughout the country. Content for Advocacy U will most likely be divided into these sections: a bibliography of articles, websites, case studies; a tutorial on how to use outcome measurement; a syllabus for teaching others about advocacy; and a network of experts in this area that can be called upon for help, or to come and speak in local libraries or communities.
The Office for Library Advocacy worked with the Office for Research and Statistics (ORS), the Washington Office (WO), and three divisions, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to create the Advocacy Statistics for Youth Project. The impetus for this project is that there many reports “out there” containing relevant statistics to help make the case for school libraries, but they are often difficult for an advocate or member in need to access quickly. The Advocacy Statistics for Youth initiative, funded by special 2010 funds, will allow partners to hire a researcher to pull statistics from these lengthy reports and create a web-based tool for members and advocates to use. It will be categorized under headings such as early literacy, closing the learning gap, relationships between school libraries and academic success, and relevancy of 2.0 tools. This will be positioned on the Advocacy University resource, but can be multipurposed as needed. It will serve as a template for similar projects through ORS and for Advocacy University. The goal is for it to launch in time for ALA’s 2008 National Library Legislative Day.
Finally, the Office coordinated ALA’s participation in the National Book Festival on September 29, 2007, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The booth was located in the Pavilion of the States, along with state libraries from around the country, D.C. and U.S. Territories. With a focus on the general public audience, the ALA booth featured ilovelibraries.org, Book and Media Awards, Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week. Volunteers for the event included Pat May and Mark Bard of the ALA Washington Office, as well as YALSA members Pam Spencer Holley, Priscille Dando, Debbie Clifford and Kathy Fitch. OLA was grateful to the ALA Washington Office, PIO, OIF, YALSA, ALSC, and ALA Publishing for their assistance and donation of materials.