The fall issue of YALS focuses on advocacy. There are several articles with tips to help library staff serving teens advocate for what they do. As a companion to those articles, YALS asked Christian Zabriskie to let us know his 10 tips for successful advocacy efforts. Christian is a member of the Board of Directors of YALSA, is the CEO of Urban Librarians Unite, and is the Co-author of Grassroots Library Advocacy: A Special Report available from ALA Editions.
- Know Who To Talk to and When: Who are the decision makers you need to influence and when will they be making their decisions? There is no point harassing people who cannot give you what you want and even the right people might be useful to you for a short window of time. Do some homework so you don’t waste your time and energy before talking to the right person at the right time.
- Don’t Take No for an Answer: If people tell you “No” then you can use it as a chance to rephrase your message and find out where the drag points are. A negative answer only lets you know where your opposition is coming from (so you can meet them there and escort them where you want them to go).
- Be Creative: The same old story gets tired and dusty. Use your creativity to refresh the story and change up the scene.
- Use Stories: People don’t give their hearts to a well reasoned argument, they give their hearts to a story. It is real people and real stories that change the world. Make people know your story.
- Dismiss Your Detractors: When you put yourself out there people will find fault with what you are doing, no matter what you are doing. Find the comments that are useful and helpful and move past the ones that are not. Don’t let people tell you what won’t work while you are fighting to make a change.
- Use the Assets You Have: Is somebody in your group a writer? Let them write! Do you have an illustrator, a designer, a web guru? The people that you have helping you are your most valuable asset. Encourage them to use their best skills and abilities (even if you have to dig to find them).
- Use Social Media: Social Media is a cheap, handy, easy way to get your message out. You can spread the word, build a movement, and set up events all via the judicious use of Facebook, Twitter, and a blog.
- Stay on Message: Work with your group to decide what you want to say then stick with it. The time you spend crafting a statement of what you want will pay off as that message is spread far and wide.
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: Repetition will drive your message home. You need to be smart about it of course and not burn your bridges but if you can get someone to say or think something three times, then they will probably remember it (even if they don’t agree with it).
- Stand Strong: Don’t give up just because it is hard and just because the process is slow. Steady action always does more than fiery rhetoric. The last person to quit a fight, wins the fight.
Check out the fall issue of YALS for more content on advocating for high quality service to teens. If you are a YALSA member YALS is a perk of your membership dues. If not a member learn how to join, or learn how to subscribe.