Library funding is important.

Public libraries provide job assistance, support education for all ages, and are places in communities where people can find the information they need to make decisions about the big moments in their lives (disease and divorce, but also births, weddings, and buying a house). Public libraries also provide a much-needed break from life — with movies, music, and romance novels — a service that’s no less important even if it’s about fun.

Library funding is in trouble. 

Libraries need to rally their community support more than ever, a daunting prospect in the best of times. With that call-to-action in mind, the people of EveryLibrary are bringing you The Library Advocacy and Funding Conference, an online conference bringing the world’s best political operatives, consultants, organizers, and fundraisers to libraries.

Patrick Sweeney, from EveryLibrary, spent some time with me to talk about this conference and why someone from your state library, your library association, your friends’ group, your foundation, and your library should attend.

Why is this conference so important?

Over 98% of library funding is decided by voters and politicians, and in the last ten years, libraries have lost nearly 20% of voter and political support for funding and revenue. This support is vital to library funding, and advocacy will be required to rebuild it. Advocacy is also a skill, with known strategies and tactics that can create real, lasting support for library funding. 

We developed this conference to help library workers navigate the world of politics with sessions led by some of the most advanced political organizations in the country.

Why did you select these presenters?

You’ve probably heard from the library workers that are doing incredible work around the country and presenting at library conferences. This conference is a way for us to bring in some of the world's most cutting-edge leaders from outside of our industry so you can learn new ideas, strategies, and tactics to increase your funding and community support. These new ideas can rebuild that lost voter support, and we’re excited to bring them to the library industry. 

What can the library community learn from this conference?

This is going to be an interesting conference because library workers are becoming more political, advocating for the things they are passionate about outside of librarianship. Anyone interested in being an agent of change in their community will learn a lot. Librarians, library staff, and library supporters will learn how the basics of advocacy — phone banking, canvassing, how petitions work, how to use Facebook, direct mail — as well as how to structure an advocacy campaign in a meaningful way. We hope the people attending this conference use those skills to increase support for library funding, but they are transferable to whatever you’re passionate about. 

What can libraries do with the information from this conference?

This conference is a great starting point for any type of political action. Library workers are thinking of running for office, and we have presenters who will answer the basic question of “How do I get started?”

Friends and foundation groups are typically set up as social clubs, fundraising organizations, or advocacy groups. For those that are a fundraising organization, we have a presentation on building institutional support for fundraising and a session on corporate social responsibility and building partnerships with large companies with representatives from AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Accenture. We also have vendor presentations on platforms that help raise money.

For those advocacy groups, one of the biggest issues we see is that organizations don’t know what 503(c)s are allowed to do on behalf of a library or a library ballot initiative. We have experts like Caitlin Donnelly from Nonprofit VOTE to talk about the difference between taking a political stance and a partisan one and how friends and foundations can better how to support the library on the ballot. 

For those groups that are mostly social, we offer presentations on building communities around your cause, building new relationships, and nurturing existing ones.

Library associations are an important part of the advocacy equation. The COVID crisis means conferences were cancelled, and revenue was lost, which is why we’re donating 25 percent of all conference proceeds to library associations (for example, to CLA for public library staff from California or SCALA for a school library staff member). We have programs that will help associations learn to differentiate between being political and being partisan and how to take a stand in support for bond initiatives. We have several programs on data and how data about library supporters will help organizations do advocacy at a deeper level. Most importantly, we’d love for associations to takeaway that advocacy should be a revenue-positive activity for an association and for them to make that happen. 

LibraryAware and EBSCO Information Services are proud to be a sponsor of this conference. Library Advocacy is a 365-day of the year activity. 

Jennifer Lohmann is the Director of Sales & Marketing. She is currently reading Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History's First Global Manhunt by Steven Johnson, which she learned about in a NextReads newsletter