Sometimes it’s hard to separate advocacy from marketing. Advocacy should focus on the why of what we do for teens. Why the services we provide to adolescents are valuable. Marketing is about selling what we do. The how and when of services to teens. There is overlap between the two and there are ways to combine them to better inform community members, and get the word out, about what you do and why you do it.
It’s easy to forget how important displays are in advocacy and marketing. Displays bring people into the collection, perhaps highlighting books they didn’t know (or had forgotten). They show the breadth of the collection and the range of expertise involved in curating books. They help demonstrate the value of the library to teens because they show the range of what the library can provide. Don’t forget that displays don’t have to just be about books: they can include artifacts, newspapers, local crafts, photographs and more. This helps to market the wide-array of resources libraries connect teens to and shows the library as being more than about books – which helps to advocate for teen services beyond the traditional focus of libraries.
On the YALSA blog The Hub, bloggers frequently talk about themes and discuss a variety of materials that could be used in displays. For example, in 2012 there was a post titled Reading Black History Month in a Different Way. You can expand on that post by thinking about a topic such as black history month and including more than books in the ways you connect teens to materials on the topic. The resources you display and highlight might include local writing or newspapers from critical moments in the history of the United States. (For example newspaper articles from the time of the civil rights movement.)
Another way to connect marketing and advocacy is through outreach. In another post on The Hub, Summer Hayes describes readers’ advisory for urban boys in a treatment center. This may be outside your traditional population, but what a great way to both market and advocate! A service like this shows the importance of libraries to the community and builds a connection to a population that may not have been valued in libraries before.
Finally, you can market the collection and invite the community to provide feedback on a variety of topics related to teens. Consider asking teens and community members to react to book related news such as what’s described in The Hub blog post NPR’s 100 Best Ever Teen Novels. Or connect with the community via a reading partner program that randomly matches disparate readers and build bridges between different populations.
Marketing and advocacy can be organic events. As you’ve probably noticed, The Hub frequently has great articles that can lead to programs you can try in your space. These ideas in these posts can help you to market and advocate and keep your library busy, bringing in people who may not currently use the library regularly, and at the same time help you to convince “the powers that be” about the importance of libraries to your community and to teens.