All (Advocacy) in the Family


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.


This is my mother Ann. She is a regular patron of the Cherry Hill Public Library. On any given week, she is borrowing books, movies, and television series. When I was growing up, she would take my brother and I to the library to borrow books and movies. In hearing about the cuts to library funding in New Jersey, it has inspired her to write a letter to the editor that she is going to send to the local papers. To my knowledge, she has never done anything like this before. I was so proud of her when she read me her rough draft; I certainly hope they publish it.


dad-cruiseThis is my father Bill. Unlike my mother, he is not a regular library user. This is not to say that he would not use a library, but it’s not a regular deal. However, he is also a library supporter. He sees the value in the services provided as a community good; he understands the importance of information access. With a background in finance, my father is also appreciative of the positive rate of return for taxpayer money invested in library services and materials. I know I can count on his support not simply because he is my father, but that he is informed as to what the library does for the community that I serve.

I’ve been thinking of my parents as they represent the two important types of library supporters: overt and latent. In practical terms, my mother is the person that libraries have coming through their doors everyday. They would be the low hanging fruit of advocacy since they already understand what the library has to offer. It’s not a giant step to connect them to our funding cause and encourage them to take action.

The library supporters like my father, on the other hand, present a different question. How do libraries reach the people in the community who support the library on ideological grounds yet never grace our doorsteps? While I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can educate my father about the value of the library, there are many others out there like him who do not have an advocate for a wife, son, and daughter-in-law. 

So, here’s the question: how do we reach people like my dad?

5 thoughts on “All (Advocacy) in the Family

  1. Great post and an interesting question. People like your mom are sure to get on the bandwagon (so to speak) when the library needs them, but people like your dad need coaxing. I am not sure how to do it either. I’d put both my parents in your dad’s category. Perhaps a week where people could bring in their donations, take a tour. Or, see if the local paper will run an article including the latest non-fiction/fiction acquired by the library and listing all that the library provides for free and also mention how the library is struggling.

    These all sound lame as I write them. I guess I don’t have a good answer.

    • I don’t think they are lame. I think they might have limited appeal; you want to make the broadest case in a newspaper article. This means demonstrating the value of a library in terms of how it influences the non-user by pointing out the good that it does in the lives of the people around them. If you can appeal to them on the basis of, oh, I’d say something along the lines of “You already know someone in your life that uses the library”, it puts the value in their immediate reach.

      The stat that gets tossed around is that one from ALA that says libraries enjoy a 97% support from the general public. This to me raises two questions:

      (1) Who are those other 3%? Are they like the 5th dentist that thinks brushing is for suckers?

      (2) How many of those 97% are also in favor of proper funding for the library? Because I can support lots of things if I don’t factor in the cost.

      Off the top of my head, there are a couple of ways of reaching the advocates like my dad. Media is certainly one way, but being able to activate advocates like my mom to get active and share their concern with people like my dad is a better more personal route. At least, that’s the hope.

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