I recently completed another MOOC (massive, open online course) entitled ‘Library Advocacy: Unshushed’. It was run by the University of Toronto Faculty of Information on the EdX platform. While targeted at information professionals it really addressed basic principles of successful advocacy that would be applicable in other sectors. The quality of the material was good and was supported by research. Numerous experts from library world and beyond also had slots where they weighed in and gave practical advice.
The course ran over five weeks but I think it took me about twice as long to complete all the material. Content covered included defining advocacy, perceptions and reality of libraries today, and planning and implementing an advocacy plan.
Here are some of the main points I’ve taken away from the Mooc and that I actually remembered several weeks after finishing without looking at my notes.
- Tell stories – people resonate with and remember stories much more than data and statistics. Libraries have so many great stories to tell so we need to share them in our advocacy and use stats to support when needed.
- Craft your message – what are you trying to get across to decision makers? It needs to be concise, memorable and relevant to your audience. Think elevator speech.
- Link your advocacy to wider institutional goals – The course repeatedly underlined the fact that your message and advocacy goals need to be explicitly linked to your wider institution’s goals, objectives and/or strategy. This makes sense because why would leaders pay attention or allocate funds if what you want to do doesn’t align with their goals? This approach also gets away from simplistic “save the library” type appeals which, let’s face it, probably translate to “save our jobs”.
- Plan who to target with your advocacy – the course distinguished between decision makers (those who actually make the decisions), influencers (people who have influence with the decision makers) and stakeholders (people who have an interest in the outcome but not necessarily a decision maker). Successful advocates need to build relationships of trust and credibility with all three.
- Advocacy is a responsibility for everyone, not just the chief librarian or head of department.
Some other points taken from my notes:
- Defining advocacy – it is rooted in relationships of credibility, understanding and trust. It’s a long term commitment and requires communication, passion and courage.
- Avoid jargon in your message, speak in terms your audience will be familiar with, and link back to wider institutional goals.
- Essential concepts to tell decision makers in your communications- 1) What libraries and librarians do that’s valuable, 2) Why it matters in terms of their values and priorities, 3) Why it’s urgent.
- Position your library as a ‘value add’ by thinking about how you can solve the problems of your community/institution.
For more information on this Mooc, here’s a link to the EdX page.
The Twitter hashtag for the ‘live’ portion of the course was #la101x