"...health librarians are social actors, and agents of social democracy - social media spaces are an ideal digital milieu for our advocacy roles..." — Giustini, 2009
Advocacy is defined "...as the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal". In the case of librarianship, advocacy can be used in a number of ways: to advocate for libraries in general (for their value in society) or for a specific library (to help a constituency of users). Further, it can be used to describe the advocacy for the profession as a whole. Librarians are not especially known for possessing the strongest advocacy skills but they are increasingly important in the digital age. Many librarians know this intuitively. According to Beales, "... advocacy is pursued by librarians of all library types, yet personnel in some types of libraries are more practiced in garnering support for themselves (2012)". Now, more than ever, health librarians are admonished to improve their advocacy skills in an era of cutbacks and library closures.
For some, advocacy has a legal connotation because of the verb "to advocate" (to defend and support). In most health and medical libraries, advocacy refers to the defense of a library and information service for its long-term viability and stability. Advocacy requires long-range strategies and planning, and librarians should build strong relationships with their users in order to promote their libraries and services. Naturally, there is the expectation that health librarians will advocate for their libraries and profession. Of course, the critical role of health librarians in the delivery of patient care must be demonstrated by the work that they do. This can be accomplished in a number of ways such as participating on clinical teams or organizing subject guides.
The advocacy role played by library committees within a hospital or health organization cannot be overstated to ensure that adequate funding is available for the health library. Library committees assist the librarian in raising awareness of important issues affecting library services and its political position(ing) within the organization and community. Library committee members are increasingly recognized for and asked to play strategic roles in the survival of health libraries. Some health librarians take specialized training in advocacy to be effective. This training is meant to support health librarians, staff and library champions in their advocacy work as well as in delivering the health library message to administrators and user groups.
In 2014, twenty six library associations came together to strategize a new collaborative advocacy initiative. As a result of the discussions, there was unanimous agreement that a collaborative approach to advocacy is required. The group agreed that the overarching goal of a collaborative advocacy initiative will be to raise the national public profile of the services and expertise offered by libraries, librarians, library technicians, archivists and information professionals.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is "the act or process of advocating" (Webster’ Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary). An advocate is "one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal" (Webster’s). Librarians, regardless of type of library worked in, can benefit from learning the skills associated with advocacy. First, advocacy is a two-way street and allows for advocacy either in support or opposition to a cause or proposal; and advocacy requires the development and maintenance of relationships with those that both support and oppose the cause or proposal.
Advocacy needs of archivists & librarians
What archival and library issues are most important to you? What are your goals for your archive or library?
Some of the issues mentioned in the American Library Association (ALA)'s advocacy survey were:
The importance of building library services, programs and physical spaces (e.g., new buildings)
The value of maintaining and improving library services and programs
Finding new sources of library funding
Ensuring that the library service is viable over the long term through development and fundraising
There are costs associated with sending letters, brochures and advertising to your users -- and advocates. However, there is no end to the social media possibilities associated with advocacy such as: