by Elaine Fulton, Director of the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) & Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS)
Love Scottish Libraries is a campaign coordinated by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) to allow the Scottish people to make their voices heard about the future of the country’s library services. More people in Scotland visit their local library than attend football matches each year so we think it’s about time that we harness the power of the Hampden Roar for libraries!
The [library] profession has a long history of bemoaning the lack of advocacy and lobbying for information and library services across the UK. The phrase “something must be done”, assumes that firstly nothing is being done and secondly that by doing something or lots of things that automatically means something will change. Sadly, we should never confuse lots of activity with actions or influence. In a society that is increasingly driven by the cult of celebrity and media, developing strategy and programs which influence decision makers is not easy nor can it be achieved in isolation or always through media. Using the media is tricky, they will readily report on bad news stories on library closures and cuts but it is very difficult to get good news stories in the national press. Local press is much better at reporting the good news but for whatever reason it doesn't have the same kudos with the profession.
SLIC and CILIPS have a longstanding joint approach to advocacy and lobbying, using the respective strengths of each organization to try influence and demonstrate how library services of all kinds have a role to play in civil society. Joint or Individual responses (sometimes with other partners) to policy initiatives in Scotland means we often are able to put 3 or even 4 different submissions, repeating key messages.
That said how often is consultation real.... and how successful have we been. Well it's a mixed bag. Not too bad but never enough.
Times are tough and getting tougher. SLIC and CILIPS recognized that we needed to raise the game a little bit for members and for the public at large. Both organizations are charities in Scotland and part of their underpinning rationale is “for the public good”. Jointly we continue to work behind the scenes and publicly promote impact and good practice. But we needed to do more.
SLIC believed the best approach was a clear and concise policy briefing for politicians and stakeholders in the lead up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011 and the local government elections in 2012. “Libraries connecting people and communities” (PDF) was published in November 2010. It was sent to all MSPs (Member of the Scottish Parliament), selected local politicians and other key stakeholders. The document attempts to demonstrate that all kinds of libraries are important and need to be nurtured and supported. This was followed up by an event in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament on 18th January 2011, which included the inaugural Scottish Library Excellence Awards, which celebrated excellence in our libraries. Winners were from a variety of sectors.
CILIPS in contrast recognized the strength it has to empower and activate the membership and importantly harness the public support for Scottish Libraries. Members in Scotland received a copy of the SLIC policy briefing and were urged to get out and use it locally to challenge stakeholders and politicians. The combined and individual voices both need to be heard, but we need to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Differing arguments and messages lead to confusion and lead to poor results, hence the dual approach to deliver those messages.
Love Scottish Libraries as concept was discussed at the October 2010 Council in broad terms, with the clear remit to promote positive messages, relevant in a Scottish context and complemented other activity. Hence the layout, images and topics on the site. It was launched in February 2011 and feedback has been positive.
Now we are trying to increase the numbers signing the petition from Scotland. Members have been asked to place bookmarks in non-library venues (e.g. pubs, hotels, coffee shops, gyms) to stimulate support. Prizes will be given to the most unusual effective location which is legal, clean and decent. The logo was also used recently in the national reading promotion on Scotland’s trains and newspapers
Advocacy and lobbying is all about influence and it is everyone's job from the library assistant to the senior manager to always be able to demonstrate to a decision maker why investment in the service is important.
Further plans for the campaign are under development. Questions about the article or the Love Scottish Libraries campaign, contact Elaine Fulton at firstname.lastname@example.org.