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Pandemic Resources for Academic Libraries: Advocating for Library Workers During Uncertain Times

Updated information, professional development, and resources to support academic and research library personnel during a pandemic.

Library Advocacy Best Practices

by David Free on 2020-07-08T13:03:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

Advocating for Library Workers During Uncertain Times series introduction:

The recent public health situation has created much uncertainty for higher education funding. Libraries are finding themselves in increasingly more complex fiscal situations, with layoffs, furloughs, and budget reductions being announced and anticipated. In this three-part series on Advocating for Library Workers During Uncertain Times, library leaders from institutions of all sizes discuss practical strategies for engaging campus administrators in conversations that emphasize the importance of supporting library employees and the critical work they are doing for their students and organizations. Additional information is available in the recording of our recent ACRL Presents webcast.

In our first post. Cynthia Simpson, Director of Library Services at Madonna University, discusses "Library Advocacy Best Practices." Contact Cynthia at

Library Advocacy Best Practices 

Advocacy is defined as the work done to promote a group of people or specific cause, and effective advocacy can present a myriad of variations across a wide spectrum of situations. Successful advocacy efforts at a research institution with a healthy endowment may not be applicable at a smaller, private institution that is tuition driven. Moreover, this does not imply that, because the outcomes are different, that the advocacy employed at the smaller institution is ineffective. When advocating, be honest with yourself, your situation, and your expectations. Evaluate your needs versus your wants. Realistic expectations and plans will be far easier to work with than the unobtainable. Being able to effectively and successfully advocate involves identifying and understanding your audience, crafting a message that is specific for that audience, and selecting the right delivery method.

Consider your Audience

How often have you attended a presentation or webinar and where the speaker began their presentation with “Today I want to tell you…” or a similar variation? This indicates the speaker prepared a presentation based on what they feel is important, from their perspective, not necessarily what the audience requires. Who is your audience? Consider who they report to and who their friends are because they are also your audience.

Craft a Message Specifically for that Audience

Formulate your message so it is easily digestible for your particular audience. Use their vocabulary. Incorporate easy-to-understand visuals because they are easier to remember than words. Employ incrementalism, assembling your advocacy statement in small steps to build agreement, rather than asking your audience to take one big leap. Consider constraints your audience is working with and how your message affects their big picture. Campus issues, alliances,and institutional culture will also influence the effectiveness of your message. 

Take those into consideration and have responses prepared if that perspective does not align with yours. Craft your advocacy message with evidence, statistics, and data to support your position (logos). If you are requesting a change in policy, have justification ready to substantiate it (ethos). Would appealing to emotion be beneficial (pathos)?

Select the Appropriate Delivery Method

Consider an appropriate delivery method for your specific audience [1]. For example, do not use email if a personal, one-on-one discussion would be more effective or compassionate. Additionally, if your audience is detail-oriented and needs granular data, providing a brief summary will leave them feeling uninformed and frustrated. 


Effective advocacy that addresses the needs of your specific audience and is delivered in an easily absorbed method is instrumental to working with administration and providing understanding and empathy to those who depend on us for their livelihood, while moving forward to provide the best services for our patron populations as possible.


[1] Kelly, Jack. 2020. “Uber Lays Off 3,500 Employees Over A Zoom Call—The Way In Which A Company Downsizes Its Staff Says A Lot About The Organization”. Accessed June 10, 2020.

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