Playing Politics presentation given at MLA Annual Conference 2008. Learn how to develop positive relationships with your local officials, align your message with the community's values, and get support for your library.
Playing Politics Christine Tobias Council Member, City of Perry MLA Annual Conference October 23, 2008
Learn why YOU need to advocate for your Library Gain a better understanding of your community and its values Discover ways to create positive working relationships with your local officials Manage the opposition to your advantage
10 Reasons Elected Officials Oppose Library Funding 1. Library should do a better job of relating to the community. 2. Library should do a better job of customer service. 3. Public libraries should combine with school libraries. 4. There are other priorities for public $$$$ (health, safety). 5. Libraries are already sufficiently funded, especially if they get private money.
10 Reasons Elected Officials Oppose Library Funding 6. Voting for the library budget will hurt chances for re-election. 7. Cut to the library’s budget can help solve city’s financial plight. 8. Library does not help itself. 9. No return on investment. (Libraries are not a basic service.) 10. Council members do not know what the issues are, nor who library supporters are!
You are the Library’s first line of defense! Stand up and advocate!
Library Advocate A person who appreciates libraries and their role in society to the extent of speaking and acting publicly in their support, especially when funding and the freedom to read are at stake. Trustees Librarians Library Support Staff Directors/Administrators Community Residents/Patrons
“ What a sad want I am in of libraries, of books to gather facts from! Why is there not a Majesty's library in every county town? There is a Majesty's jail and gallows in every one.” – Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian and political philosopher
Dirty Words? POLITICS SOCIAL ACTIVIST SCHMOOZER
But it’s sooooooo political… Yes, it’s political…but aren’t all “working” relationships?
Advocacy Messages <ul><li>It’s difficult to “sell” the importance of the library to those who don’t use the library or understand its importance. </li></ul><ul><li>It is also difficult, if not impossible, to persuade an individual or a community to adopt a new value. </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, we must understand how what we are advocating (libraries) connects to the things that people and the community already value. </li></ul>
Alignment = $ uce $$ Local Government (Elected Officials) Library Community (Voters and Taxpayers) Values
What’s Important in Your Community? <ul><li>Budget </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When does fiscal year begin? July1? October 1? January 1? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How is budget created? Budget hearings? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timeline for approval? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Annual Report </li></ul><ul><li>Master Plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5 Year Plan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strategic Long-Term Plan </li></ul></ul>
The Squeaky Wheel… Shout it out! Show the link between your library and the community! Share your message directly with those in your community who have the ability to influence others in your favor.
SCHMOOZE <ul><li>Get to know local officials on a first-name basis. </li></ul><ul><li>Appoint “people” people; extroverts; community schmoozers </li></ul><ul><li>Increase visibility: join a community group (i.e.- Chamber of Commerce) and attend meetings! </li></ul><ul><li>Chance encounters…conversations at water cooler; in grocery store; driving down the street; walking in your neighborhoods </li></ul><ul><li>Identify key audience groups </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on the people who can get you what you want! </li></ul>
Let’s Talk! Good old-fashioned conversation is one of the best ways to reach your audiences. Can be used effectively inside and outside of the library by all staff, library board members, patrons, etc. in any common location. WARNING: It’s a small world! Be careful what you say about others!
Written Communication <ul><li>Give written notice! </li></ul><ul><li>Send a copy of your letter to EACH board member and the chairperson. </li></ul><ul><li>You represent the information resource of your community…the Library! You are the expert! </li></ul><ul><li>It is your job to educate your local officials…it is their job to represent you! </li></ul>
Spread the Word! SUPPORT other forms of outreach and amplify your message. Don’t preach to the choir. Tailor messages to resonate with specific audiences and connect to what motivates them. <ul><li>Newspapers: Op-Ed pieces </li></ul><ul><li>Newsletters </li></ul><ul><li>Web Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul><ul><li>Television </li></ul><ul><li>Public Service Announcements </li></ul>
The Opposition “… examining [the] role of opposition in the light of its potential for facilitating rather than obstructing library initiatives can be productive. “
Bring It On! <ul><li>Can give a fresh perspective on an issue </li></ul><ul><li>Helps advocates learn more about library’s activities and policies. </li></ul><ul><li>Provides a good defense for your case! </li></ul>Opposition …
The Opposition <ul><li>The opposition makes more noise than supporters do. </li></ul><ul><li>Those who oppose have to be convinced that they are heard. </li></ul><ul><li>Possible supporters will pay attention to how opposers are treated by the leading supporters: Are they paid attention to? Are they given clear explanations? OR Are they ignored? Attacked? </li></ul><ul><li>Convince opponents that their positions are justified. </li></ul><ul><li>Opposition will diminish in numbers and quiet down as advocates convince them that the best is being done with the situation. </li></ul>
“Best Offense Is A Good Defense” <ul><li>Types of opposers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Those who can be persuaded to agree with you </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Those who will oppose you no matter what…even if it means they need to contradict themselves. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Adopt opposition tactics: perseverance and multi-dimensional view </li></ul><ul><li>Identify those in opposing ranks whom can be targeted for library service. </li></ul><ul><li>Do you have time, energy, strength to change attitudes? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>YES: Approach opposition and try to smooth things out from the beginning. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NO: Strategize and contain! Do not personalize! </li></ul></ul>
Prepare Your Troops Representative from Library Board should attend local government meetings…so officials cannot speak for you! Make sure you provide your staff with the information they need to be effective and accurate messengers! Staff should be experts on any and all library issues. Provide the same “official” answer to questions. Be knowledgeable about the issues and know when to refer to an expert for answers. “ Let me take your name and number and get back to you.”
Summary YOU need to advocate for your library. It is your local government’s job to represent you…but they can’t do so unless you educate them about the issues. Find out what’s important to your community and align your message with those values. Seek out your local government’s official stand on the issues.
Summary Schmooze and network with your local officials. Get to know them on a first-name basis. Use media to support your outreach efforts. Have an “official” message and enhance your visibility in the community. Don’t be afraid of the opposition! Use them to advance your cause and gain support in the community.
“ Every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honourable by being necessary.” – Nathan Hale, American Revolutionary
Christine Tobias Reference and Technology Librarian Michigan State University Council Member, City of Perry [email_address] AIM: ctobias522 517-432-6123 x 313 http://www.slideshare.net/tobiasc/playing-politics-presentation/
References Craft, M. A. (1999). The funding game: rules for public library advocacy. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. Libraries prosper with passion, purpose and persuasion! (2007). Chicago, Illinois: Public Library Association. Siess, J. A. (2003). The visible librarian: asserting your value with marketing and advocacy . Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association.