Over dinner, Wes Jackson, the president of the Land Institute, which promotes environmentally sustainable agriculture, complained to Ms. Jackson, his daughter-in-law, that even though many local farmers would suffer from climate change, few believed that it was happening or were willing to take steps to avoid it.
Why did the conversation have to be about climate change? Ms. Jackson countered. If the goal was to persuade people to reduce their use of fossil fuels, why not identify issues that motivated them instead of getting stuck on something that did not?
There are some very familiar refrains that library advocacy invokes in a public awareness campaign in the last year: books and reading, computer access, education programming, assistance for the unemployed and underemployed, and lending aid in the time of the recession. But, as I would commonly see in comments on library funding news stories, what librarians find as a compelling reason does not resonate with everyone.
Over my vacation week, I caught this post "The Librarian IS the Rockstar” over on David Lee King’s blog. It’s a great post about the library looking to showcase the talents of its employees, the people who work their magic and make the programs and services possible for their community. Libraries have talented staff members who (too often) remain in the shadows, unnoticed by the public and unacknowledged by the library. So why not elevate them to where people can see and appreciate the skills, knowledge, and talent they bring to the library?
The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.
This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.
Submitted by AndyW on September 20, 2010 - 11:33pm
From my readings and observations, there is a visible disconnect between library types when it comes to advocating and action. When the state budget battle was being fought in New Jersey this past year, this lack of affiliation was readily apparent.
This morning, I was reading another article on Mashable when I saw this link to a story about the Old Spice marketing people making custom videos to answer fans. With a little help from the Twitterverse, people were tweeting and retweeting about getting the Old Spice guy to say a few words for libraries. Within two hours of my first tweet (and apparently while I was eating lunch), there came a reply with the video linked below.
For lack of a better phrase, there was a plethora of celebratory posts on Twitter.
For my part of the “Social Media and Advocacy” presentation that I did at ALA annual about two weeks ago, that was the question I posed to the attendees. During the train ride down on that Friday, I had decided to change my original talk. The compromise for the New Jersey state budget had just been announced earlier in the week and the implications of funding restoration lines were just being determined. The night before I left for the conference, I felt the emotional tension of months of pushing, writing, and advocating resolve itself in the course of a few hours. Having been without word of news or developments from anyone in the know, it had been a rough time wondering what was working, what didn’t, and what was left to be done.
In Roman times, there was a uncommon military discipline practice called decimation. Meant as a way to punish cowardly or mutinous soldiers, it was a brutal practice in which groups of ten would draw lots; one man would be selected to be killed by the other nine men through clubbing, stoning, or only with their hands and feet. This ‘removal of a tenth’ punishment sent a clear message to the survivors: your actions (or lack of action) put you at risk for a disgraceful death. It was warning to all, a vicious lesson that the cruelty of the battlefield is nothing compared to the cruelty of your fellow countrymen.
I’d like you to meet my parents. This is my current favorite picture of them; it was taken during their formal night out on a vacation cruise. With all of the advocacy meetings and talk I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about them. For me, they represent the two tiers of library supporters that are needed in order to preserve (or possibly even expand) library funding in the future. Allow me to elaborate.
As mentioned in a previous post, there are things afoot in response to the devastating 74% state funding cut to libraries in New Jersey. After starting the Facebook group, I’ve been looking for new and additional ways to spread the message and get people active in saving their libraries. In gearing up for this fight, there are some things that have caught my attention.
First, while the fight is statewide, the real efforts are local. As in, being able to explain to my patrons what the cuts means to them. Overall, my library system is not in bad shape; these cuts will not result in shorter service hours, layoffs, or other reduction in quality of service. The real cut is that our materials budget will be reduced by 25% along with finding money to replace the databases. My colleagues and I are working on the best way to portray that to the public in order to make our case. As the saying goes, “All politics are local”; so here we are in a position to show our patron what the cuts mean to them. It’s hard to ignore how this will negatively affect other libraries beyond my county (since the cuts felt will be more dramatic), but that’s a secondary case to be made.