Beyond stories to engagement, influence, & support: takeaways from Internet Librarian 2019

As I continue to reflect back on the sessions I attended at the recent Internet Librarian Conference, I am reminded of some interesting tidbits I took away from a session titled, "Beyond Stories to Engagement, Influence, & Support," presented by Patrick Sweeney, Political Director at EveryLibrary, a nonprofit national organization dedicated to "political action at a local level to create, renew, and protect public funding for libraries of all types."  We continue to hear how powerful stories can be for advocacy, and that is true, however, 98% of library funding comes from politicans and voters.  According to Patrick, the positive image of the library has increased but the willingness to vote for it has decreased.  Apparently, a persons political party or affiliatiion does not matter as far as library data support goes, and library use has no correlation with library support.  The number one influence of support is the relationship that the public has to librarians.  

Library advocates have three main resources; time, people, and money.  Political power, which is made up of people and money, is what we need first and foremost.  Libraries current messaging model is one directional.  For example, we, as libraries and librarians, give you, the public, this and that, but we ask for nothing in return.  Just showing up and telling good stories isn't doing much for libraries.  A more effective model is to identify supporters and get them to act on libraries behalf.  We need the political will of the people behind libraries- we need strategies, not just tactics.  Patrick ended the session by referring to the "ladder of engagement."  This should be our guiding principle- how we move people from being unaware to being a supporter or advocate.  

fried004's picture

Beth Staats

Beth is one of three Reference Outreach & Instruction Librarians with Minitex. She holds a BA in History from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a Master's Degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  You can reach her by phone at 612-624-7873 or email at