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Title:A national priority: LIS faculty and students as library advocates
Author(s):Chow, Anthony; Cusick, Megan; de la Cruz, Justin; McGehee, Martha; Conte, Ashley
Subject(s):Library and information science education
Student internships
Library advocacy
Abstract:Library advocacy is a long-standing tradition at UNCG’s Department of Library and Information Science. The LIS faculty take leadership roles in advocacy and legislation both at state and national levels and make it a point to engage students in their efforts as part their students’ learning experience while earning the MLIS. Over the years, practicum and independent research studies have been offered and student interns have served for years as the backbone of advocacy efforts for the state under the supervision of faculty including overseeing the North Carolina Library Advocacy’s website ( and social media, helping coordinate state and legislative days, and helping schedule visits with members of Congress. ALA’s Committee on Library Advocacy discovered this educational partnership and has identified student advocacy internships in LIS programs as a high priority win-win advocacy activity for 2020-2021. What better way to learn about advocacy in your master’s program then to actually do advocacy as an internship experience? What better way to add young, strong advocates to speak on behalf of libraries then by having them earn credit as part of their degree? Student Perspectives What did you learn in terms of the current state of advocacy for libraries during our internship? Synergistic thought Organizational support is essential. Synergistic thinking among library associations partnered with a more collaborative approach are critically important and often lacking in North Carolina’s advocacy efforts according to former North Carolina Advocacy and Legislation Committee interns. Organizations within the state who operate as independent entities, as opposed to elements in a wider scheme, hinder the growth and success of the whole. Discrepancy in the support that library associations receive is evident. Helping library associations recognize the importance of library advocacy critical as is aligning advocacy goals with the agenda of each organization. Dawn Haney, former committee intern observed “There should be a regular system of “check ins” with leaders of the organizations about convergence points of interest, for example, increasing the funding of libraries within North Carolina. It should be formal and regular - once quarterly at least - to discuss progress toward shared goals.” Haney feels that formal division of labor toward a collaborative goal would be helpful within NC’s advocacy organizations. Convincing library organizations to take on the task of advocating for libraries is essential and should not be taken for granted. Lack of communication and unity. Continuity is a challenge and an area for future development. Creating a sense of overall community and a shared vision would have an enormous impact on the efficacy of library advocacy in North Carolina. What best practices proved to be most beneficial to our efforts? Developing a network Finding library supporters to advocate for you should be the most important goal for any advocacy organization. Librarians consider their work to be essential and can often speak eloquently on this subject. This is a relevant aspect of advocacy but in some instances the importance of libraries is best illustrated by those who have personally benefited from the existence of a library. Advocate to every level of the hierarchy, some of which can only be done at a highly localized level leading to the need for a large network of advocates. When formulating advocacy goals every aspect of the hierarchy that you wish to advocate to should be considered. Decisions are made on every level. A legislator may become more amenable to the idea of increased library funding after a successful library visit but this change of mindset is somewhat irrelevant if, in fact, the city council makes all funding decisions. Former intern Martha McGehee cites the importance of developing a large network of advocates, “involve as many people as possible. Increased participation increases investment as well as awareness. A large team willing to advocate for a library also illustrates support for the library in question. Each advocate brings a unique and valuable perspective to the effort. Our Panel The panel will include Dr. Anthony Chow, Associate Professor at UNCG’s Department of Library and Information Science who is also Co-Chair of Advocacy and Legislation with the North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) and a member of ALA’s Committee on Library Advocacy; Martha McGehee and Ashley Conte, former student advocacy interns; Megan Cusick, ALA’s Assistant Director, State Advocacy; and Justin de la Cruz, Chair, ALA’s Committee on Library Advocacy (COLA). Our panel addresses the conference theme of “Crafting a Resilient Future: Leadership, Education, & Inspiration” by bringing together LIS faculty, students, alumni, and ALA advocacy staff to discuss how we can work closer together and provide a win-win-win scenario where students support statewide and national advocacy efforts, LIS faculty can leverage the current need to advocate for libraries as an experiential learning opportunity, and students learn first hand how to advocate for themselves and libraries.
Issue Date:2021-09-20
Series/Report:Education programs/schools
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17

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