Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lobbying on the go

Tuesday, May 5

Lobbying on the go

Speaker: Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director, American Library Association

Finally off and running! Great to be here. Lunch was good, but I might need some tums to go with Lobbying on the Go! This is really a lot to digest. The operative word in lobbying is advocacy—with a capital 'A'. Make that Advocacy, or ADVOCACY! At every level. Networking at the federal, state and local level is important for dealing in success.

Libraries must have something you are trying to achieve. You may receive $1M—and bless you; but that is not a plan. Expecting surprise money is not a plan for success. Advocacy requires a plan and a vision at the local and state level for making a case for support. Specificity also helps. As old Medieval Cathedral builders used to say: “God is in the details,” or in this case, the library. Have numbers and figures. How do these figures relate to the problem we are trying to solve? This, of course, requires a great deal of preparation and resolve.

Keith offers a few points to consider:

Make note of Public Awareness—get the word out at every level. There is no need to think that you can only act at the federal level. Charity starts locally, and every phase of advocacy is important for building a coalition of the willing.

Use the power of the media—a quotable line, such as “Taking a child to the library is synonymous with being a good parent.” It’s bold, but it is a usable sound bite. You would not say this about taking a child to the mall. Such sound bites get the library necessary recognition.

Get involved and involve others—Keith tells a story about bringing relatives—carry baggage?—since more is clearly better. Keith has a friend who brings her mother to every meeting and fundraising event. Although I couldn’t imagine bringing my mother to every meeting, Keith is creating a strategy for action. Essentially you are bringing people who care into the fold. Every person then becomes an advocate.

Praise your legislators! They love to be shamelessly praised. Give them a chance to portray their good looks, er, I mean works (Sorry, couldn’t help thinking of Gilderoy Lockhart). Everyone wants to be a part of something good. Find a way to give them an opportunity to communicate with their constituents by turning the spotlight on them.

Don’t get discouraged—libraries will get built (in every sense of the word) whether it is 5 or 40 years. Creating positive, persistent pressure over time will yield results. Librarians are persistent and can make a dime go further than anyone else (I take that as a compliment, as a lover of free meals).

There are enormous opportunities to move ahead if you look for them. Lay the foundation during difficult times (I would say these are difficult times). If you show up to make your case, when the landscape shifts you will be ready to move, or pounce, as it were.

2002 Library Journal Conversation with Mr. Fiels

Or a more recent video of Keith talking about the tough economy from American Libraries

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