There is a really easy thing to do to make people feel welcome and part of the library. Invite them. It seems very simple but I often think we make simple things more complicated than they need to be. When you break something down, and get to the root of the issue – sometimes the simplest answer is often the one that makes the most sense.
So when you have those moments of, “why is no one coming to my program?” or “why do my coworkers not understand what I’m doing?” or “why can’t I do this because of (insert whatever you are struggling with here)?” It might be good to stop and make sure whatever you are doing is inviting and welcoming. Is your program at a bad time for the people you are trying to serve but fits awesome in the library schedule? Well, that’s not very inviting for the people you are trying to serve. If you get a chance ask people why they couldn’t make it and then give them a reason to come to the library – extend an invitation.
Do you sometimes struggle with advocating for kids with your coworkers? I think everyone feels this at some point and it hits like a brick. And sometimes it is really hard to work your way out from that feeling. And that’s okay. But dwelling too long in that feeling won’t help. Advocacy can be a friend here. A large part of advocacy is getting the entire library team on the same page, and that means you have to understand and appreciate. I think inviting people to see what you do and why you do it is a huge way to break down some walls. Invite staff to programs personally, let them observe. Show them the tech you are using. Did you get Sphero/Cubelets/MakeyMakey/etc.? Let them try it and if they have concerns – listen! Talk about why you do what you do, and why. Then ASK them about what they are doing – congratulate them on their success. Because the library is one team and that team deserves the recognition.
Inviting people is essential and I think it is taken it for granted. We must honor the trust the public gives us for wanting librarians and library staff to serve their community. After all, the library belongs to the people – make sure they know they are welcome and wanted.
When it comes to ego I find there are two types of people: a) Those who have no problems talking about themselves and b) those who find it really hard. I fall in with the group that finds it difficult. It’s not always easy for me to talk about myself, I feel like I stumble. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’m still working on it. When I find myself with that challenge in front of me I reframe the discussion. I focus on the end result. I ask myself this question, “What action will benefit my library?”
Instead of worrying about whether or not you are talking about yourself too much, think about the people you serve. What do your patrons deserve? Do they deserve to have that ridiculous awesome service? What do they need? Is what you are trying to do amazing for your patrons?
Advocacy is not about you – get away from your ego. It’s not about that. It’s about the people we are serving and the services provided. When you go out in the world and talk about the library, or talk about it your services with your patrons, or talk about exciting programs with other library staff – make sure you know the end goal. Keep that big picture in mind.
To advocate for our patrons and libraries we need to be able to find a way to communicate our services in a way that emphasizes how we are helping and serving our library users. Don’t worry about coming across too confident or too “braggy.” Guess what, you are doing something that is worth bragging about! After all, awesome library services are put forth by awesome librarians and library workers – and that is definitely worth talking about.
Advocacy is hard, at least it sometimes feels like it. I am very much inspired by my fellow librarians who are able to tell their stories eloquently. I believe in that ethos. (Check out Heather’s post on telling your library story). I want to shout about successes from the rooftop. And sometimes I’m able to do it, other times it isn’t as easy. Advocacy is a skill I’ve had to develop over the years – it doesn’t always come naturally to me.
I do know I can advocate well with patrons. It feels good to talk about library services, tell library users what is new and talk about where the library is going. I’m enthusiastic about library services, so I love to share what we provide. I can speak confidently about the library in a non library settings, too. The profession is in the middle of a transformation and I like to share that with others. My job is a unique one, and as a youth librarian focusing on technology I have learned the importance of advocating outside the library building about the different programs and offerings at libraries.
However, when it comes to one area of advocacy where I am still learning. I often find myself struggling when it comes to advocating internally. I’d like to think that I’m failing forward, but sometimes it just feels like a fail. Advocating in-house is a challenge, and I’ve had to figure out how to communicate effectively. I tend to get excited about things quickly and am naturally very optimistic (I relate to Leslie Knope), but I’ve discovered this can sometimes backfire. I try not to let it bring me down instead I take a bit to regroup then figure out a way to keep moving forward.
In March, Robot Test Kitchen will spend some time talking about advocacy. We will discuss strategies and small changes that can help make advocacy more approachable. We are going to be open and honest. We hope you join in the conversation. Stay tuned.