23 Things: Thing 16—Advocacy, Speaking Up For The Profession, And Getting Published
Personally, I haven’t done a lot of advocacy for libraries. I have, however, been involved in a library’s outreach programme at one point in my life (as an intern), and I have done advocacy in the cultural sector, not to mention being a student protester.
As someone who works in the academic sector, I think I sometimes forget what it’s like for those of us who work in the public sector and are constantly in need of advocacy, constantly having to defend themselves, their value and services, and having to justify their existence in the face of more and more cuts to public services. Academic librarianship seems like the only safe sector these days because nobody contests that universities need libraries, right?
Well, I’m not so sure, because there are a lot of academics who don’t know what their university library actually does. One of my lecturers likes to tell this story of a doctor of medicine who told him that what he needed was a screen in the operating theatre with the most current research on the specific procedure he was about to perform, but he didn’t need the university library. Presumably that information would have to get there by some sort of magic.
Also, at LibCampUK yesterday, people mentioned that if the academics in a university don’t lead by example in using the library, we can’t expect students to follow. So yes, even though the existence and value of academic libraries are seemingly taken for granted, we need to speak up for ourselves and make the people we serve aware of what exactly we can do for them and what we need to provide that service. The people who make decisions about where the money goes in a university need to be told just how valuable their libraries are, precisely because things are taken for granted so much in this sector. So I’m currently looking at ways to get more involved with this.
I’m definitely getting in touch with Voices for the Library because public libraries have played such an essential part in my life. And yes, I was a middle-class child whose parents were teachers. Public libraries really aren’t just for people from educationally/financially deprived backgrounds, although that is an important part of their audience. But really libraries are for everyone, and that’s a message that I don’t think we communicate strongly enough.
So, in summary, yes, advocacy is vastly important both on a big and on a small scale, and I’m going to get in there.