Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Power of Advocacy to Promote Service

     As future librarians, we are ever mindful of our responsibility to the public.  The ethic of service is the polestar of our profession from which all other rights and duties flow.  Whether we are engaging patrons at our local public library, educating college students at the USF library, or assisting health professionals create innovative treatment techniques, our commitment to service is an aspect of our profession that comes naturally to us.  It is our raison d'√™tre.
     In order to serve the community, however, we need help from those who furnish the budgets that keep our libraries alive.  This is not an easy task, especially in light of today’s economic environment.  As local governments look to cut costs due to shrinking revenues, it is important that librarians advocate for themselves in order to explain to our communities the necessity of libraries.
     Advocacy, however, is a difficult skill.  It takes years to acquire and master.  It also requires a receptive audience.  Fortunately, for us in the State of Florida, we have people who are effective advocates for our profession.
     This year I was able to participate in the Florida Library Association’s “Legislative Day” at the state capitol in Tallahassee.  I, along with other eager graduate assistants and students in the MLIS program, travelled to the capital and joined the Tampa Bay Library Consortium as we shadowed library leaders during their advocacy rounds with politicians and policy makers.  I was fortunate to be paired with Barbara Gubbins and Brenda Simmons from the Jacksonville public library system.  Having met the night before, I was welcomed into their delegation as we walked the halls of the capitol talking to legislative leaders about this year’s budget.
     I was amazed and inspired by their advocacy.  I was also encouraged by the support we received from people such as Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Janet Adkins from Jacksonville, both strong and effective voices on behalf of our profession. To them, we didn’t have to answer the question ”why they should help us.”  Instead, they were concerned with what they could do and how could they help us succeed.
     Our day concluded with a trip to the Florida Archives at the R.A. Gray building.  There we were greeted by archivists and state library administrators.  We learned much about the important work that is done on our behalf by the Division of Library and Administration Services. 
     By the time we left that day, we all had truly learned the power and necessity of advocacy in support of our commitment to service.