In a recent editorial Ian Anstice makes the telling point that a new narrative around public libraries ‘…can only happen in different political circumstances where national politicians realise the importance of libraries and are willing to invest in public libraries … and that can only realistically happen with a General Election.’
I wholeheartedly agree. And for this to come about the message needs to be driven home over the coming months time and again.
In a speech the new SCL President, Ciara Eastell, highlighted the need to advocate for libraries in the build-up to the general election. Leaving aside the potentially divisive commitment to support community-led libraries this was an excellent rallying call to be more proactive in promoting the value of libraries to politicians. To which we can add, promoting the value of librarians and library staff.
However, it would be wrong to leave advocacy only to campaigners and professional bodies. As individual librarians we also can make a difference. The general election is only 11 months away so now is the perfect time to start engaging politicians about public libraries. As citizens and constituents we can be a powerful voice in advocating for libraries at both local and national level with potentially thousands of library staff throughout the country standing up and defending an important public service.
Cilip’s ‘public libraries – get involved’ page is a good place to start, with links to sites for contacting your MP:They Work for You and Write to Them. There is also some excellent advice for writing to a MP at the Open Rights Group website.
If you have ever felt powerless as a member of the library profession in the face of changes to services over the past four years now is the time to influence political opinion for the future. Remember, your MP is not an expert on libraries but you are and you can use this opportunity to educate them about the value of public libraries. Obviously, some may disagree but others might just be willing to listen. And politicians tend to listen a whole lot more when it’s election time!
There are also many sites for background information including the excellent Public Library News, the Library Campaign, Voices for the Library, and Speak Up For Libraries (including the SUFL Manifesto). Local library campaigns can also be good sources of information.
Try to publicise the information you get back (start your own blog!). Equally, I would be more than happy to publish replies on this site and I am sure that other, campaigning sites would likewise be interested in politicians replies.
Our voices can make a difference. But only if we raise them and speak out.