“Advocacy is turning passive support into educated action by stakeholders”
-Patricia Glass Shuman, ALA Public Awareness Committee chair

General Overview of Advocacy

The idea of general advocacy for a library is to make the public see just how important libraries are to the community. Through a combination of marketing, outreach, and public relations, the library can encourage the members of a community to demand the full possible funding in order to continue and improve the work that the library is doing. Advocacy also extends to issues other than funding. Literacy, censorship, and the freedom to read are only a few. Advocates of the library strive to uphold all of the goals of the American Library Association. The ALA website provides information on how to advocate for a wealth of causes: Access, Banned and Challenged Books, Broadband & E-rate, Diversity, Ebooks, First Amendment, Intellectual Freedom & Civil Liberties, Government Information, International Issues, Library Funding, Literacy, Privacy & Surveillance, and Professional Ethics

Advocacy Programs

Originally, advocacy was difficult for libraries. People did not believe that the ALA should be advocating on a local level. The ALA president never appeared on television to advocate for library issues. The change occurred when people realized that the ALA could work for them as marketing for libraries became a more accepted idea. Today's library advocates can find a wealth of resources at the ALA Advocacy Page.

General Library Advocacy Programs - Past and Present

Library Advocacy Now!

Introduced in the mid 1990s by the ALA president at the time, Arthur Curley. Library Advocacy Now! is a call to action for librarians to reach out into the community and show people just how important libraries are. The program includes information packets that instructed librarians on how to argue for full library funding in an effective manner. A large part of its arguments were originally the stories of people who made significant discoveries in the library. It’s mission statement is “to advocate the full support of our nation’s libraries at local, state, and national levels. It’s rallying cry: “Libraries change lives.”

The “@ Your Library” program

@ Your Library” was initiated in April 2001, after a 1999 survey indicated that public awareness should be the top priority of libraries. A lot of its goals and methods are very similar to the “Library Advocacy Now!” campaign. It includes five goals to increase awareness of the needs and services of the library:

1) Increase awareness and support for libraries
2) Increase library usage
3) Promote recruitment
4) Bring libraries to the table on key public policy issues
5) Ultimately impact funding for libraries

The “@ Your Library” campaign is designed to be flexible and adaptable in order to apply it to a variety of different events, as well as allowing it to develop as economic and social changes occur. With this national program serving as a basis, several specialized campaigns were launched in the years following 2001: an Academic and Research Library Campaign, School Library Campaign, Public Library Campaign (The "Smartest Card" Campaign), and the Kids!@your library Campaign. The ALA website offers ideas and materials for libraries looking to participate in @ Your Library.

ALA Presidential Initiatives

Several ALA Presidential Initiatives offer guidance to libraries in their advocacy efforts. As of 2013, current ALA president Barbara Stripling is implementing the initiative Libraries Change Lives. In 2013-2014, she will collect signatures for the Declaration for the Right to Libraries , a document demonstrating that libraries are "essential to democratic society." [1]

Turning the Page

The PLA (Public Library Association) sponsors a free advocacy training program called Turning the Page. Turning the Page 2.0 is a live six-week training session offered by the PLA. Web training is available through Turning the Page Online.

Youth Advocacy Programs

The ALSC and Everyday Advocacy

The ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) "engages in many activities and initiatives aimed at improving library services for children through the identification and promotion of best practices, the professional development of its members, and a strong program of advocacy."[2] Advocacy efforts constitute Priority Group 1, the most important of ALSC's working groups. In this group are the following advocacy Committees: Intellectual Freedom, International Relations, Legislation, Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers, Early Childhood Services and Programs, Public Awareness, and School-Age Programs and Services.

ALSC sponsored the Kids! @ Your Library campaign, the youth division of the @ Your Library program, from 2006-2010. This campaign aimed to impart the impprtance of the library to youth and their parents and caregivers. Although the campaign has ended, users can still access advocacy materials from the campaign for use.

On May 1, 2013, the ALSC launched the Everyday Advocacy program. This program, aimed toward ALSC members and children's librarians, strives to inform library staff and advocates of the importance of advocacy and their roles as advocates, and to help them become more comfortable and effective advocates.


As part of its 2012-2014 Strategic Plan, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) asserts that "teen and young adult library services within all libraries are highly valued as a result of YALSA’s advocacy and activism efforts."[3] YALSA sponsors the annual Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week, and provides resources for advocates such as the 2013 Advocacy Toolkit.

Issues in Youth & Teen Advocacy

What Youth-Specific Advocacy Means

“Youth advocacy means being a voice with and for youth at all levels of a library organization, ensuring that circulation systems can measure teen use, selecting appropriate furniture, providing information literacy instruction, and employing programs that increase student learning and achievement.”

Advocating for youth, especially for teens, can be difficult. Many members of both the public and library staff consider young people to be loud and intrusive. Libraries must strive to prove how vital young people are to the library, and what they bring to the institution.

Youth advocacy concerns meeting the various developmental, emotional, intellectual, and entertainment needs of the users. Working with youth and being an advocate for them can help to encourage reading and library use at a young age, creating lifelong readers and library users.

Youth Spaces

“Teenagers today long to be needed, to be respected, and to belong”
-Kimberly Bolan
A library space for children and teens should be designed in a manner that promotes exploration and fun. It should encourage the freedom to choose materials for themselves, while also providing the sort of intimate space that allows children and teens to interact with each other. As the years go by, libraries are changing from repositories for books and places of quiet study to computer spaces and areas of intellectual and social discourse. Libraries should strive to make their children’s sections and teen spaces reflect those changes.

Successful construction for spaces designed for young users of libraries involve a collaborative effort on many levels, including the director, the board, the staff, and, sometimes, the users themselves. Getting a project started without the interest of the director and board can, of course, be difficult. Upper management should be involved and should be advocates. Sometimes library workers must fight for this support, but that is simply another aspect of advocacy. The members of the youth services staff must collaborate in order to plan for a space that is best designed to cater to the needs of the users. They should meet regularly in order to make sure that the progress of the space is meeting the needs of the users. The users themselves can help bring insight to the project that would not have otherwise been thought of from an adult’s perspective. Because of this, Teen Advisory Boards can be indispensable when it comes to constructing a new space. Keep in mind, no one knows what youth want or need better than they do.

Collection Building

Youth services staff must collaborate in order to ensure that a collection is meeting all of the needs of the users. Libraries should strive not only to provide new and exciting material, but they should also be working to meet the needs of the underserved. In order to properly assess what the needs of the users are, the youth services staff must look into several different factors.

The demographics of the area are essential to creating a collection that properly serves the users. Use of resources such as “Kids Count” can be useful to show library staff what types of users could be walking in their doors. The information from these sources can reveal such things as the need for a foreign language section, the needed size of the youth collection, and the distribution of materials over age groups. For example, in a community that is primarily families with children ages 5-12, the teen collection will not need as much of a priority as the early reader collection.

Taking a close look at what young people are reading is also vitally important. This can involve looking at the circulation statistics, but should also include observation of the patrons themselves and what books they are pulling. A good example is an LGBTQIA collection that hardly circulates, but is often taken to a secluded corner and read. This indicates a collection that might need development, but where the area in which the development is needed would not be indicated as popular in the circulation stats.

More than just meeting the needs of the users overall, libraries must strive to meet the needs of the individual user. For example, if a patron wants a specific book that the library does not have, purchasing that book quickly and providing it to the patron as soon as possible builds a sense of reliability for the library in the eyes of the patron. They will start to see the library as an institution that works for them.


Programming should be designed to meet the many needs of a library's young users. By providing adequate programming, libraries can not only encourage use of the library, but also help to enrich the lives of the children and teens that attend the programs. By accomplishing this, libraries are proving themselves to be vital to a community.

Children’s programs and teen programs meet the developmental needs of their audiences differently. A primary example of early children’s programming that meets the needs of youth is storytime. Storytime serves to both engage the children, as well as encourage the development of early literacy. Teen programming becomes a bit more complicated because teens have so many other options for where they spend their time. Programs should be interesting enough to pull them away from their computers, but also enriching enough to provide a benefit, even if that is just socializing in a safe space.

Access to Educational Resources

According to a Pew Report, 55% of youth library visits were to do school work, including 77% of those ages 12-17. 37% went to use the internet, including 43% of those ages 12-17. 87% visited the library to borrow books, many of which were likely used for school assignments. Many public libraries also offer offline or online tutoring services, database access, and homework help from librarians. These resources are especially vital to homeschooled youth who have no school to provide educational materials and to disadvantaged youth who may lack technology access and supportive learning environments at home.

Young Adult and Teen Advocacy

Though usually considered a subset of general youth advocacy, young adult and teen advocacy deserves separate consideration as it involves its own unique complex of issues.

Interactions with Teens as a Means of Advocacy

Teens are going through a time in their lives in which they are struggling with independence. They find themselves wanting to be independent of adults, but, at the same time, find themselves staying dependent for information as they navigate the world. Interacting with these teens can be tricky. If we are advocating for teens, we must make sure that we are not just focusing on their needs as library patrons, but that we are also advocating for the teens themselves. This involves treating them with respect, while also remaining sympathetic to their needs both as a patron and as a human being.

Statistics about Young Adult Library Staffing

The Young Adult Library Services Association shows several statistics on their website. According to a Public Library Data Service (PLDS) survey, only 1 in 3 public libraries have a staff member that is specifically a Young Adult Specialist. In most cases, Young Adult materials are either handled by staff members in children’s services or adult services. The National Center for Education Statistics released studies that show that only about 79% of secondary schools employ a school librarian. The YALSA website indicates that these statistics affect an estimated 42 million teens in the United States alone.

Annual Teen Advocacy Events

Teen Tech Week, occurring once a year in March, is sponsored b YALSA and is an opportunity for libraries to market their nonprint resources and programs for teens. Teen Read Week, also sponsored by YALSA and occurring in the third week of October, encourages and celebrates teen literacy. Teen advocates are also heavily involved in the annual Banned Book Week, since young adult titles are among the most frequently banned and challenged books.

Strategies for Advocacy

Creating an Advocacy Work Plan

An Advocacy Work Plan allows advocates to set goals and measure success. It is a set of guidelines to help libraries organize their advocacy initiatives. Instruction on creating an Advocacy Work Plan can be found in the PLA's Turning the Page Online training.

Internal Advocacy

While library staff, administration, and board members all appreciate the overall value of the library, youth services staff must work to ensure that they appreciate the specific value of youth and teen services. This is vital, because if budget and resource distributors within the library do not appreciate the value of youth services, they may channel resources toward other library functions to the neglect of youth services. Youth services staff must also ensure that all library staff, even those with little decision-making power, have both respect for young patrons and the knowledge to serve them. No one in the library should view youth as less important than any other patron. Some staff not accustomed to working with children will need training so that they can provide at least basic services to youth in support of or in the absence of youth services staff.

Sharing Stories

Advocates can express their value by sharing stories about how the library changes lives. Three types of stories are the anecdotal story, the factual story, and the emotionally-inspiring story. Anecdotal stories are true stories about patrons and the ways the library benefits them on a daily basis. They should be relatable, grounded, and human-interest centered. Factual stories involve hard data, such as statistics. Emotionally-inspiring stories reference major life events, for example, the receipt of one's first library card. They are followed by a call to action. Each type of story, when framed against community needs, can be used to [p a picture of the library as an invaluable part of the community.


Policymakers and those who control the flow of budget often come from backgrounds in business, and they measure value in monetary terms. Finding ways to express the value of a library, which most librarians consider to be non-monetary, in a way that is meaningful to these legislators is an ongoing challenge. One method is to attempt to place a monetary value on the library for these legislators. The ALA offers a Library Value Calculator that aims to help libraries do this. It also provides research on the Return on Investment (ROI) for various library resources.

Evidence-Based Studies

For the scientific-minded, truth is to be found in facts born of research and experimentation. On a local level, circulation statistics, cardholder statistics, and headcounts demonstrate how many people are benefiting from library services. Libraries can also conduct surveys to determine patron satisfaction in numerical terms. On a larger scale, the Pew Internet Library project and links to Impact Research from the ALA provide advocate with an arsenal of evidence-based information on the value of libraries. Academic journals and university websites also offer the results of scholars' evidence-based studies of library services.

Social media

Libraries are making use of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr as a way of reaching out to patrons in the digital information age. Social media is a prime place to market library services. It can also be a powerful mobilizing force in gaining funding or advocating for the library when threatened by closures and budget cuts. Social media allows information to be shared quickly, and anyone with internet access to can voice his or her opinion. Online campaigns and petitions allow community members to let legislators know that they support their library.

There is much buzz about the effectiveness of social media as an advocacy tool. There are success stories, as in the Multnomah County Library in Oregon, which was successfully given more favorable funding after social media was used to find volunteers and advocates (Dankowski 2013), but also detractors, who claim that social media 'activism' and advocacy have few real-world effects and are not useful as tools of change (Gladwell, 2010). Social media allows anyone to voice their opinion easily, but actually getting people to voice their opinions is much more difficult. That's why there are so many articles on social media news sites like Mashable trying to help organizations and business increase 'engagement' - because it's not people seeing your message that effects change, but rather their taking action, and getting them to actually take action is difficult. People feel "reluctance to jump in with a comment (or a Facebook like, or a retweet) unless people notice that someone else has done so already" (Greenwalt, 2013), so gaining momentum on social media can be very difficult.

Another difficulty with social media usage by libraries is that most guides and strategies available for increasing social media success are geared towards for-profit entities, which have differing priorities. That being said, there is still information available that can help libraries use social media to their advantage. In the September 1st, 2013 issue of Public Libraries, R. Toby Greenwalt offers the following suggestions:

Keeping it simple - making sure the goals of your social media advocacy campaign are clear, and the steps that patrons can take to participate in the campaign are also clear and easy to follow
Collaboration - Partnering with other libraries or community partners (see section below!) can also help increase momentum and engagement
Patience - Persistence is using social media; sometimes things take a little while to get off the ground, but if you keep working at it, it will be worth it.

Community Partnerships

By teaming up with like-minded community organizations, the library can share resources, attract a wider audience, and increase the number of people who feel a close personal connection to the mission of the library. For youth advocates, partnerships with schools provide an excellent opportunity to collaborate on literacy initiatives and reach local youth who may not be regular library users. Other possible partners include youth groups, the park district, scouts, camps, museums, cultural centers, and non-profit groups.

Mobilizing Young Patrons

When libraries are threatened, young patrons can be some of their best advocates. In 2003, over one hundred teens stages a Support the Library Youth Rally and were able to dissuade lawmakers from closing any of Oakland Public Library's fifteen branches. Members of the Teen Library Council at Glendale Public Library in Glendale, Arizona fought budget cuts using Facebook, Twitter and an online petition.


About @ Your Library. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/publicawareness/campaign%40yourlibrary/aboutyourlibrary

"Advocacy Grows @ the Library." American Libraries 35.2 (Feb. 2004): 32-36.

Advocacy, Legislation, and Issues. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/

Banned Books Week. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/

Bromann, Jennifer, and Ellen Linder. "Everything Bad is GOOD!" School Library Journal 53.4 (Apr. 2007): 43-46.

Clark, Sarah. (2009.) Marketing the Library? Why Librarians Should Focus on Stewardship and Advocacy. Progressive Librarian, 33, 93-100. Retrieved from
http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=502983022&site=ehost-live .

Curley, Arthur. "Library Advocacy Now!" American Libraries 25.8 (Sept. 1994): 784.

Dankowski, Tara. (2013) How Libraries are Using Social Media: Expanding Online Toolkits to Promote Advocacy. American Libraries, May 2013. Retrieved from http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/how-libraries-are-using-social-media

Everyday Advocacy. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/

Feinberg, Sandra, and James R. Keller. "Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Spaces." American Libraries 41.4 (Apr. 2010): 34-37.

Gorman, Michele, and Tricia Suellentrop. Connecting Young Adults and Libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2009.

Gladwell, Malcolm. (2010) Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted. The New Yorker Online. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

Greenwalt, R. (2013). Building Local Participation by Going National. Public Libraries, 52(5), 17-18.

Latalladi, Portia and Kathy Caudill. "Ready, Set...Blaze! Advocates Lighting the Trail and Building an On-Fire Library Community." Presented at the 2013 Illinois Library Association Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois.

Library Value Calculator. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/advocacyuniversity/toolkit/makingthecase/library_calculator

Macrae, Cathi Dunn. Saving the Library. Voice of Youth Advocates, 35.2, 145-145. voyamagazine.com.

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading (2013). Retrieved from http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/05/01/parents-children-libraries-and-reading/

Pew Internet Libraries project, http://www.pewinternet.org/topics/Libraries.aspx?typeFilter=5

Turning the Page. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/pla/education/turningthepage

Teen Read Week. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://teenreadweek.ning.com/

Teen Tech Week. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://teentechweek.ning.com/

Walter, Virginia A. (2009). Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).
In Bates, Marcia J. and Mary Niles Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Edition. Retrieved from
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/book/10.1081/E-ELIS3 .

Welch, Cindy. (2010). Keep Your Friends Close... and your Staff Closer: Internal Advocacy for Youth Services. Tennessee Libraries, 60.2. Retrieved from
http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=502998840&site=ehost-live .
  1. ^

  2. ^

    Walter, Virginia A.
  3. ^