Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Thing 16 – Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

As far as advocacy goes, I agree that it’s very important for those in the profession to be able to explain, promote and publicise what they do. It certainly seems to be more common these days, with organisations like Voices for the Library taking the lead, and CILIP demonstrating a more proactive advocacy role than it has in the past.
Library advocacy comes in all forms

I’m glad a distinction has been drawn between advocacy and activism. I’m not an outgoing person, and wouldn’t be comfortable with public speaking and many of the other demands that being an activist makes. I really enjoyed Johanna Anderson’s blog post about the differences between the two, and it made me feel more comfortable with the idea of advocacy. I also gained a lot from Alice Halsey and Simon Barron’s workshop at the New Professionals Conference 2011 about activism for new professionals. It helped me realise that some of the things I do without really thinking about them, such as talking about libraries to friends and family and occasionally linking to library-related content on Facebook, could count as advocacy.

When I was a graduate trainee in Cambridge, the library did a fantastic job of promoting the college’s special collections to outside users, such as schools as part of an outreach programme and the general public as part of Cambridge Open Days. Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert talked about this in more detail as part of their NPC 2011 presentation. In a wider academic context, I would say that academic libraries are under less of an immediate threat than public libraries, but there are still issues with services being cut, and at a time when increased tuition fees mean students will likely expect an even better service without any extra money going to the library. Students may not even be aware of the services academic librarians offer – I know I wasn’t as an undergraduate.

As far as being published is concerned, I have already had an article published in Relay (the journal of the CILIP University, College and Research Group) on digital asset management. This was adapted from a Masters assignment and is largely thanks to the help and encouragement given to me by one of my tutors – it would never have occurred to me to try this by myself. I certainly feel much more comfortable writing than speaking or anything else, so I might try to pursue this further in the future.


Annie Johnson said...

Great post :) I didn't realise you were a trainee at Cambridge! *goes and looks you up on CATALOG*

Johanna said...

Hi Laura,
I am sorry, I have only just seen your blog post. Thank you so much for your comments about my post. I was a bit concerned that I had not made the distinction between advocacy and activism very clear or did not express myself too well after some of the debates since, so it was a relief to read this. I do think a lot of people are involved in advocacy without even realising it which is why I think it is useful to think about it every now and then and reflect. It can certainly take many forms and approaches. I am concerned by the number of people who immediately associate advocacy with loud-mouths with banners and I worry I am partly to blame. Activism is not for everyone and it is not easy so I would not for a minute blame anyone who did not want to be involved. Advocacy is actually pretty fun though I think. Even if academic libraries aren't facing such a visible big threat as public libraries I think advocacy is always important if you want to be seen as an integral part of the University.

Laura Steel said...

@Annie - Yes, I was at St John's a couple of years ago. Loved it!

@Johanna - Thanks for your comment. I was surprised at some of the reactions to your post. I thought you made the distinction pretty clear and actually made me feel more positive about advocacy (and activism even though I don't engage in it myself).