Library Advocacy: A topic of great interest to me,
whether it be Academic, Public or School.
Lately I've been reading about so many library cutbacks, that I wonder what we, the Information Professionals, are doing right and what are we are doing wrong.
Specifically, when the public libraries were spared from the chopping block in Ohio, was it the protest rallies held at the Capitol and letter writing campaign to legislators that made the difference? Or was there other inside politicing going on?
Tommorrow , Sep 9, the Pennsylvania Legislators start their session to decide the fate of Governor's Reindell's budget PDF , which proposes a 50% decrease in funding to Pennsylvania public libraries, spending 37.5 million instead of 75.2 million for fiscal year 2003-2004. What will need to happen for the public funding decision makers to spare the library budget as proposed by 71 of the 203 Reps in HB 1590 ? What information will sway their decision? Will it be a letter writing campaign from the PA library advocates ? Editorials expressing outrage? Or will other groups' lobbyists present their cases more effectively?
It is paradoxical to me that we make our living as Information Specialists, yet, I don't think we are getting the specific information delivered to the audience that needs to see it in order to keep us afloat.
Governor Rendell hates this budget but wants to balance the 600 million dollar deficit. He believes these are the tough measures needed to bring the state back to prosperity so that he can reinstate the funding to the public libaries.
I believe he likes libraries, because he posed in front of library shelving for one of his photos that randomly appear on his web site.
You see, Governor Rendell explains his reasons for the tough choices. One of his sources cited was a report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) , a non-profit, non-partisan Foundation. Titled the Development Report Card (DRC) , it summarizes economic benchmarks for decisionmakers and is succinctly subtitled "How to Govern in a Recession ". The report "provides ten guidelines to help state policymakers make wiser choices in what programs to cut, what investments to sustain, and what taxes and fees to raise."
Each state gets a report card and is graded using raw data collected for 71 measures. You can then compare your state's performance in the recession to other states on such indicators as "Average Teacher Salaries" , "Crime Rate", and "Unemployment Rates". Also, you can check your state's individual strengths and weaknesses.
The 71 measures are grouped into three Indexes: Performance, Business Vitality and Development Capacity.
The Performance index hopes to answer the question, "How well is the state's economy providing opportunities for employment, income, and an improving quality of life?" Colorado (it got straight A's) had favorable data in the measures that make up that category.
Index 2: Business Vitality question, "How dynamic are the state's large and small businesses? Index 3: Development Capacity, What is the state's capacity for future development?
Now, if you think like I do, you'd want to find how effective public library systems were figured into the 71 measures. Surely, a state like Ohio, with its largely state funded public libraries got a few points for improving the quality of the lives of their patrons with job search strategies and improving the literacy levels of children through library programming. I supposed that a public library system that is successful in meeting it's mission statement (especially with state dollars) would be figured into the first index question, "How well is the state's economy providing opportunities for employment, income, and an improving quality of life?"
But, after searching all the measures, I could not find a single one that included any public library statistics. I called the CFED and they confirmed that they had not included public libraries contribution but, were open to the idea of including PL data next year.
Now, here is a project where ALA or PLA-types could lend a hand. Will the CFED really make these changes on the basis of one librarian's request? How can I assume she will find all the wonderful sources of data already collected?
ALA does address federal funding issues , but I think either PLA or ALA could come up with some strategies for dealing with the state funding crisis affect on public libraries. This brings up the question, to quote Blake
"Does the ALA need to do More for budgets and worry about Filters Less?"
State library associations like PaLa can only do so much with their limited funds. Compare the PaLa web site to the < a href="http://www.olc.org/budgetupdate.asp"> Ohio Library Council budget update and Advocacy Handbook (PDF) for an idea of the inequity of state level organization and support.
Iowa Library Association complies Library Success Stories and the grass roots campaign by MaryLaine Block to collect library success stories looks promising, however I did not find a compilation of the stories, I wonder if anyone sent any to her.
I did join the ALA Advocacy Now, (ALADNOW) "A discussion list of the ALA Library Advocacy Network for idea sharing, updates, and legislative alerts." to find out more about the ALA's Advocacy programs . For example, who do I talk to about this issue of a national think tank missing the PL data? I e-mailed someone at ALA but there must be something else that can be done.
I am new to this profession and have a lot to learn about the professional organizations. I welcome your comments.