Libraries stand ready to help
ALA President Jim Rettig sent a contribution to the Huffington Post in December. His letter was coauthored by Greg Worrell, president of Scholastic Classroom and Library Group. It starts: “When economic times get tough, the average American family’s solution is to get creative. In rethinking their budgets, many families across the country are turning to a familiar place—the public library. As one South Florida man discovered, canceling his home internet access and taking advantage of the free internet service offered at his local public library could save his family over $700 a year.”...
Huffington Post, Dec. 11
From the ALA Executive Director
ALA tools that can help libraries in a tough economy
ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels discusses the economy, its effect on libraries, and what ALA is doing to help libraries survive in tough times in this exclusive AL Focus video: “One of our concerns is that libraries provide essential services, but they don’t always receive the recognition for those services. Unfortunately, when it comes time to cut budgets, libraries are often the first to be cut.”...
AL Focus, Jan. 13
ALA and the U.S. Government
At Midwinter: What would you tell President Obama?
What library issues are the most important for ALA members to share with the incoming administration? The ALA Executive Board and Membership Meeting Committee are sponsoring a Special Membership Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, January 24, 3:00–4:30 p.m. in the Four Seasons Ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Your suggestions and comments will help us as we develop a library message that ALA President Jim Rettig will convey to President Obama. Share your views on the Town Hall discussion wiki....
Report to the Obama-Biden transition team
The ALA Washington Office prepared a report on the library community’s key issues and concerns, Opening the “Window to a Larger World”: Libraries’ Role in Changing America (PDF file), and submitted it to the Obama-Biden transition team on December 17. The Washington Office hopes to continue this open dialogue with the administration over the next four years....
District Dispatch, Dec. 18
ALA requests stimulus funding for libraries
In late October, ALA asked Congress for stimulus funding for basic public library services across the country so that they can continue to offer specialized assistance to help Americans deal with the current economic crisis. The recommendation comes at a time when Congress is considering a variety of stimulus packages that will support job creation and economic growth....
District Dispatch, Oct. 29
Why federal funding matters to libraries
For the past several years the federal budget has been hard on domestic programs. While libraries have seen increases to the Library Services and Technology Act, many other programs that benefit libraries have been severely cut or terminated. ALA follows these other programs as well, because libraries are part of a much bigger picture that includes education, the humanities, the arts, and many other important societal functions. The ALA Washington Office specifically communicates to Congress about the importance of funding libraries in many ways....
Contact Congress now
ALA Office of Government Relations Director Lynne Bradley writes: “In order to maximize our influence on key library issues, we must be proactive in educating our new and returning elected officials on ALA’s legislative agenda. There will be an onslaught of new bills in the coming months. We need to start building relationships with our senators and representatives early to make them aware of important legislative issues. Start by inviting them to your libraries.”...
District Dispatch, Jan. 6
ALA offers online advocacy program to chapters
In the fall, ALA expanded its support of Capwiz to make it easy for each chapter to advocate for libraries in tough times. Maryland and Florida and 41 other state associations are mobilizing librarians and library users to contact governors and state legislators through their own Capwiz websites, powered by Capwiz advocacy software. By bundling into a shared system, ALA saves its chapters much-needed dollars....
NYLA goes grassroots
The New York Library Association, an ALA chapter, is holding a Library Lobby Day on March 10 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Advocates will rally in Meeting Room 6 to voice their support for library funding and provide a visual demonstration of the strength of the library community to legislators and their staffs. State legislators will have the opportunity to meet with librarians and have their photos taken for the annual READ posters and bookmarks....
New York Library Association
Texans support their libraries
The Texas Library Association, an ALA chapter, released the findings January 15 of a statewide survey of Texas voters and their opinions about school and public libraries. Conducted by KRC Research on behalf of TLA, the telephone survey of 1,201 registered voters found that an overwhelming majority believes their public library is very important (79%) to the community. 90% agreed that, during economic hard times, public libraries provide important resources to families and job seekers....
Texas Library Association, Jan. 15
Libraries: A great local government resource
ALA Chapter Relations Office Director Michael Dowling writes: “Libraries are proving to be important partners in helping local governments address community priorities. No longer institutions devoted solely to book circulation, today’s libraries provide citizens and businesses with internet connectivity, career development, childhood literacy, immigration assistance, and other important services. Here is the International City/County Management Association’s perspective.”...
Local Government Matters, Jan. 20
Taking the library message to local governments
ALA has been taking the library-value message directly to local government officials and school administrators. Last fall ALA exhibited at conferences of the International City Management Association in Richmond, Virginia, and the National League of Cities in Orlando, Florida (above). ALA will also be exhibiting at American Association of School Administrators in February and the National Association of Counties in the summer. The theme of the exhibit is the value libraries bring to communities in services and economic development....
ALA Chapter Relations Office
ALA releases tough economy toolkit
The ALA Office for Library Advocacy has released a new, web-based resource that will help library advocates make the case for libraries during times of economic downturn. The Advocating in a Tough Economy toolkit is now available online. It provides information on how to work with decision-makers and the media; recent media coverage of libraries is included. It also contains talking points to help libraries articulate the role of libraries in times of economic downturn....
Advocacy toolkit for public libraries
Libraries Prosper with Passion, Purpose and Persuasion! A PLA Toolkit for Success, provides guidance on planning your library’s advocacy efforts, including goal setting, audience analysis and identification, message and strategy development, and tactic evaluation and selection. Nearly 100 pages of instructions are included, as well as an accompanying CD-ROM....
Public Library Association
Crisis toolkit for school libraries
This AASL Crisis Toolkit is designed to help you build meaningful and effective support for saving your program. That means educating and rallying stakeholders to speak out on behalf of school libraries. Ideally, you want students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to carry the message that school libraries make a difference to students. But this won’t happen without careful planning and action. AASL also offers a School Library Program Health and Wellness Toolkit that offers tips on avoiding crises completely....
American Association of School Librarians
Advocacy toolkits for academic libraries
Academic library advocacy includes the concept of library staff–initiated, systematic action to improve the quality of resources and services in the campus environment. It is most successful when all library staff members are aware of how they each play a role. Check out these tools from ACRL that will help you articulate the value of the library to your constituents....
Association of College and Research Libraries
Advocacy toolkit for youth services
Youth services librarians may choose to advocate for any number of things—a dedicated teen space, bigger and better young adult collections, a young adult specialist, more staff, more and better
computers, faster connections. The possibilities are virtually endless. But it almost always comes
down to money. The focus of Speaking Up for Library Services to Teens: A Guide to Advocacy, a free, downloadable handbook, is on helping you get the support you need....
Young Adult Services Library Association
Add It Up: Libraries make the difference
The ALA Office for Advocacy has gathered together some talking points, research, and statistics to help advocates make the case for libraries at every stage of youth development and education. When the act of reading extends beyond the schoolroom and becomes part of daily life, ongoing literacy is on its way to becoming a reality....
Share your advocacy tips
How are you advocating for your library in these tough economic times? No matter how big or how small your success, the Office for Library Advocacy would like to hear from you. OLA is collecting best practices and tips from libraries around the country. A list of best practices will be made available online....
ALA program grants
When times are tough, there’s no better time to apply for a grant. The American Library Association and its divisions offer financial and material support for library programming. Support is also available for publications, research, and travel....
Friends and trustees unite voices for America’s libraries
Citizen support for libraries will be receiving a big boost on February 1 when Friends of Libraries U.S.A. and the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates will join forces to become an expanded division of ALA—the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations. This new division will help trustees and Friends work together at the local, state, and national levels to effectively promote libraries. The ultimate goal will be to harness the power of hundreds of thousands of library advocates....
Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations
ALA student chapter book drive
Members of the East Carolina University ALA Student Chapter set a record in 2008 with their third annual Christmas Book Drive, collecting some 3,500 donated books and delivering them to children’s agencies and shelters throughout the state. Recipients included the Building Hope Community Life Center (above), the Greenville Family Violence Center, Catholic Parish Outreach, the Raleigh Rescue Mission, and the Duke Children’s Hospital....
I Love Libraries
ILoveLibraries.org, an ALA initiative, is a website designed for the people who use and love libraries. It keeps the public informed about everything libraries have to offer, and helps develop new ways to involve library supporters in the continued health and vitality of libraries everywhere....
Seven ways the public library can help in a tough economy
M. G. Farrelly writes: “Libraries listen to consumers! We like to call them patrons, but we really do listen. Do you want a story time for kids after 5 p.m.? Ask for it! Want more books about home finance or budgeting? Just ask! Libraries often go to great pains to suss out what the community wants; letting us know directly is great. The complaint or suggestion of a patron carries a lot of weight with library directors and boards, so you are being heard.”...
House releases stimulus bill . . .
On January 15, the House of Representatives released its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF file), the highly anticipated stimulus package. The House version includes funding for a host of programs that libraries benefit from, including Education for the 21st Century, K–12 Repair and Modernization, Higher Education Repair and Modernization, Rural Community Facilities Program, State Broadband Development, Community Service Employment for Older Americans, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Head Start/Early Head Start. Here (PDF file) is an ALA summary of programs included that will benefit libraries. The House Appropriations Committee report (PDF file) says education is a key investment area that will “enable more children to learn in 21st-century classrooms,
labs, and libraries to help our kids compete with any worker in the world.”...
District Dispatch, Jan. 16; eSchool News, Jan. 15; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, p. 180, 192; committee report, p. 4, 15
. . . but lacks aid to public libraries
Minneapolis-based architect and ALA member Jeffrey Scherer wrote in a letter to the New York Times: “The proposed language of the $825-billion recovery plan before the House of Representatives today does not include money for our [public] libraries. While it includes roads and bridges to drive across our communities, it must include our intellectual bridges, the public library. It is crucial that they have the financial resources to be upgraded, expanded, and renovated to fit the new era in the 21st century. I urge everyone to encourage Congress to include this crucial American intellectual resource in this recovery package.”...
AL Inside Scoop, Jan. 16
State funding for public libraries on decline
Forty-one percent of states report declining state funding for U.S. public libraries in fiscal year 2009, according to a survey of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies conducted as part of ALA’s Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study. Of these, 20% anticipate an additional reduction in the current fiscal year. While reductions have been seen from coast to coast, the southeastern section of the country has been the hardest hit, with declines as large as 30% in South Carolina and 23.4% in Florida in FY09 compared with FY08....
Surge in library usage covered by national media
Media outlets across the country are reporting that Americans are visiting their libraries more than ever, taking advantage of free programs and services. ALA’s Public Information Office started educating media about this upsurge in library visits last summer. Media—large and small—started to cover this developing story and placements continue to roll in. On December 31, CBS News anchor Katie Couric (above) said Americans were saving money and keeping the looming recession at bay by going to their local libraries....
Folks are flocking to the library
The financial crisis has caused a lot of withdrawals at the public library. A few years ago, public libraries were being written off as goners. The internet had made them irrelevant, the argument went. But libraries across the country are reporting jumps in attendance of as much as 65% over the past year, as newly unemployed people flock to branches to fill out résumés and scan ads for job listings....
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15
The role of libraries in hard times
Libraries today have become multimedia centers, offering not only books but DVDs, eBooks, and internet access. They can also be an especially important community resource during times of economic hardship. Carla Hayden (Enoch Pratt Free Library) and Ginnie Cooper (District of Columbia Public Library) joined ALA President Jim Rettig on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show January 7 to discuss the future of libraries. Available in Real Player or Windows Media formats....
WAMU-FM, Jan. 7
Library funding news
The ALA Public Information Office keeps track of news and information for librarians and library supporters regarding public and school library funding....
Share your news tips
On this wiki from the ALA Public Information Office, you can view what’s happening in the news at libraries across the country, as well as submit news stories on what’s going on in your community....
Inspired leadership in Minneapolis: 1933
In 1933, the Minneapolis Library Board was in dire financial straits.
Local libraries had to subsist on a 33% cut from their annual funding level three years earlier. Hours were cut just as the reading rooms were filled to capacity with people who were out of work. Luckily, the city agency had inspired leadership. Minneapolis’ determined and politically savvy chief librarian (and 1933–1934 ALA president), Gratia Countryman (right), was not about to let her libraries collapse under the weight of overwhelming budgetary pressures....
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 8
Another challenge for Minneapolis: 2008
Anita S. Duckor writes: “Minneapolis Public Library and the suburban Hennepin County Library made history last January when they merged, creating a single system serving 1.1 million people. The unprecedented measure, which required the approval of three elected bodies plus the state legislature and governor, was precipitated by a financial crisis that crippled MPL.” Here are some things about advocacy and public awareness that they learned along the way....
American Libraries 40 (Jan./Feb. 2009): 45–47
Tough times in Tuscaloosa
Andrew Heller sat at a computer in the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Public Library, scrolling through his email and searching for employer responses to his online job applications. “I don’t have the internet at home, and I don’t feel like paying for it since I don’t have a job,” said Heller, 18, of Tuscaloosa County. Heller said he started using the library to help him in his job hunt about two weeks ago. He’s been to the library 10 times since. “It’s cheaper to come here,” he said. “It’s here, why not use it?”...
Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, Jan. 5
Recessions and their impact on libraries
Hilary Davis writes: “In 1933, ALA Secretary Carl Milam, along with Ora Wildermuth, an attorney in Indiana, and H.L. Woolhiser, a city manager in Illinois, held a radio broadcast called ‘How to Reduce the Library Budget.’ The transcript (available from the National Municipal Review 22, no. 8, 1933) unpacks a revealing conversation about the pressures on libraries during the Great Depression and the corresponding aims of the ALA. It’s 2009, and our nation is in a major financial crisis with a new leadership positioning itself to get our economy back on track. What role are libraries playing during the current economic crisis?”...
In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Jan. 14
The Spokane moms story
The advocacy of three determined Spokane women in 2008 resulted in the first-ever state-level support for school libraries in Washington. A compromise budget passed March 12 included $4 million for 2008–09 to maintain and improve library materials, collections, and services. Lisa Layera Brunkan, Denette Hill, and Susan McBurney, troubled at the cuts to school library media programs in Washington and determined to strengthen them statewide, began a grassroots movement to combat the Spokane school board’s decision to cut in half the hours of the 10 full-time, K-8 teacher librarians still employed by Washington’s second-largest district....
American Libraries Online, Feb. 4, Mar. 21, 2008
Funding in a tough economy
Daniel A. Freeman writes: “Public libraries are crucial to their communities, especially when it comes to technology. According to Larra Clark and Denise Davis of ALA’s Office for Research and Statistics, writing in the January issue of Library Technology Reports, nearly three-quarters of all public library branches are the only source of free computer and internet access in their communities. This is more common (82.5%) in rural communities. We are dealing with one of the worst economic crises in history, and the first to occur during the internet age. At a time like this, how could anyone argue that the only free source of internet access is expendable?”...
ALA TechSource blog, Jan. 19
Measuring your library’s value
Authored by members of the team that developed, tested, and perfected this methodology for over a decade, Measuring Your Library’s Value: How to Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis for Your Public Library gives librarians the tools to conduct a defensible and credible cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that prepares library leaders to collaborate with economists and consultants. Learn how to measure the dollars-and-cents value your library provides to your community....
The small public library survival guide
In 2002, Herbert B. Landau took on a job as director of the Milanof-Schock Library in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. He writes: “In order to keep the public library financially viable, functionally relevant, and operationally efficient, I was forced to draw upon virtually all of my corporate experience in finance, marketing, public relations, and human relations, as well as my limited handyman’s skills.” His book, The Small Public Library Survival Guide, offers especially relevant tips on grantsmanship and buying on the cheap....
Library advocate’s handbook
The Library Advocate’s Handbook covers basic techniques that work, whether you are seeking an increase in funding, campaigning for a new building, or dealing with controversy on social networking or the USA Patriot Act. Used in conjunction with training at state, regional, and national library conferences, the handbook has reached thousands of library advocates, enabling them to increase public awareness and support for library services. It’s available online (PDF file) as a free download....
The quality library
In an environment of budget cuts and freezes, librarians must keep a tight rein on costs and inefficiencies. Based on more than 50 years of author expertise in organizational improvement, The Quality Library: A Guide to Staff-Driven Improvement, Better Efficiency, and Happier Customers, by Sara Laughlin and Ray W. Wilson, offers a methodology to pinpoint and eradicate inefficiencies, mistakes, and poor customer service....
Marketing today’s academic library
Written in a concise and engaging manner that speaks to popular anxiety points about new marketing techniques, Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews is filled with tips and strategies that academic librarians can use to communicate with students, surpassing their expectations of their library experience. Coming in March....
Creating the customer-driven library
How can libraries make a difference in their communities when customers choose to hang out in the spacious, well-stocked new bookstore instead? With the goal of helping libraries market their services using low-cost or no-cost techniques, Jeannette Woodward in Creating the Customer-Driven Library shares practical lessons for any library’s revitalization, inspired by the success of the megabookstores....
Great ideas for libraries and Friends
Friends of Libraries U.S.A. has collected 101+ terrific ideas and best practices to help you and your Friends team connect with your community. Even More Great Ideas for Libraries and Friends offers ideas for innovative programs, successful fundraising, strategic advocacy, powerful public relations, memorable membership campaigns, and more. Non-members of FOLUSA or ALTA must order it directly through Neal-Schuman Publishers....
Friends of Libraries U.S.A.
School Libraries Work! edition 3 (PDF file)
For the last four years Scholastic has been updating and publishing School Libraries Work!, the research that proves the school library positively affects student achievement. Since 2004 more than 200,000 copies have been distributed. The downloadable 24-page document contains the results of research from 19 states and one Canadian province and provides the backbone for your arguments in support of additional resources that will make a difference for your students....
Thrifty reference sources
Mary Ellen Quinn writes: “Expensive new reference sources, whether print or online, can be out of reach for many libraries in these belt-tightening times, but you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot to freshen up the print reference shelves. Here are some titles that Reference Books Bulletin has reviewed over the past year or so that offer exceptional value.”...
@ Visit Booklist Online for other reviews and much more....
ALA Midwinter Meeting, Denver, January 23–28.
AASL School Library Advocacy Institute, Sheraton Denver, Vail Room, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Information, resources, and strategies to define advocacy action plans for school library media programs. On-site AASL member cost is $189, ALA member cost $229, others $279.
Urban Libraries Council, Urban Assets Strategy Group, Denver Public Library, Level 5 Gates Meeting Room, 10 a.m.–noon. Discuss issues related to economic development, civic engagement, services to diverse populations, and other changing community conditions.
ALA Placement Center, Colorado Convention Center, Hall A, 4:00 p.m. Orientation for job seekers.
History in the Making, Colorado Convention Center, Room 201, 8:00–10:00 a.m. This ALA Washington Office Update will include a panel discussion considering thoughts on the recent election and what to expect from the new Administration and Congress. The panel will include former Colorado State Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon and ALA Executive Director Emily Sheketoff.
ALA Placement Center, Colorado Convention Center, Hall A, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Employers are eager to talk to job seekers and will often grant an interview on the spot.
Building Campus Advocacy in Tough Economic Times, Colorado Convention Center, Room 402, 10:30 a.m.–noon. The ACRL University Library Section Campus Administration and Leadership Discussion Group will assist you in making the case for a smaller budget cut for your library when compared to other campus agencies.
Smart Investing @ your library, Colorado Convention Center, Room 111, 2:00 p.m. Announcement of more than $800,000 in grant funding by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to support selected libraries with unbiased financial educational resources.
Special Membership Town Hall meeting, Colorado Convention Center, Four Seasons Ballroom, 3:00–4:30 p.m. A healthy and vigorous discussion of the role of libraries in the United States.
Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries in a Tough Economy, Colorado Convention Center, Room 403–404, 4:00–5:30 p.m. A panel discussion moderated by former ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano and featuring ALA President Jim Rettig, Martin Garnar, Rod Wagner, and Ann Dutton Ewbank.
ALA Placement Center, Colorado Convention Center, Hall A, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Employers are eager to talk to job seekers and will often grant an interview on the spot.
Sign up for the ALA Washington Office’s District Dispatch blog by email or RSS feed and learn about library-related legislative and other government news as it happens.
“I probably would not be in Chicago were it not for the Manhattan public library, because I was looking for an organizing job and was having great trouble finding a job as a community organizer in New York.”
“Straight Answers from Barack Obama,” American Libraries 36, no. 7 (Aug. 2005): 51. Read Sen. Barack Obama’s keynote address at the opening general session of ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, June 23–29, 2005.
The Legislative Action Center features updates on all the important library-related legislation making its way through Congress and allows you to directly contact your Members of Congress.
Find advice that will help you prepare for a productive and effective job search on the Tips and Tricks page of ALA JobLIST.
If you need help getting your résumé polished, stop by the ALA Placement Center while you are at the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference. The New Members Round Table provides a free résumé-critiquing service to attendees....
Create READ posters showing your elected officials. Skokie (Ill.) Public Library did in 2006, and one featured then-Sen. Barack Obama. Nationwide, libraries and schools are using the READ CD to bring their communities closer together. From classroom projects to legislative partnerships, the READ CDs have helped build relationships in communities while highlighting the importance of reading.
the ALA Librarian
Q. I have heard several news reports mention that public library usage is up due to the slowing economy. As a librarian in a public library, I know that there certainly seem to be more people coming in, but how can I prove it to our Board? This would greatly help us when we ask for an increase in funding.
A. In our newly-released Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit, we have a worksheet for “Making the Case.” We suggest stories and examples, but also facts. Gathering statistics for the various services you offer is key not only for your ongoing need to make operational decisions, but also so that you can advocate for additional funding if your use is skyrocketing—or so that you have the facts in order to work to prevent deleterious cuts. You will also want to know your costs for the services. In particular, you might want to look at the services in highest demand by your community. Some places to start include: 1) How heavily are your public access computers used? 2) Are more people visiting your library than in the past? 3) What return on investment does your library provide? Advocacy for your library is one of the best ways to make sure that it continues to get the funding needed to provide the services your community expects—in any economic climate! See the ALA Professional Tips wiki.
@ The ALA Librarian welcomes your questions.
“Each of us will have our own recipe for simple pleasures. Here is mine—and it’s absolutely free. All I need is my library card. Give me a book and a Sunday afternoon and I’m gone.”
Community volunteer and philanthropist Carole Weinstein, in “How Libraries Can Help You Weather the Economic Storm,” Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, Dec. 21.
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