In our Community Relations & Advocacy class, George posed an interesting question: “Is there a way to capture…instances where a library or librarian has made a real difference and corral that into evidence of value that would compel others to use and support the library?”
I have a couple thoughts on ways that libraries can make a real difference, some evidence that may encourage support of the library as a valuable information source. First, libraries partner with local nonprofits and social service agencies to support the desemination of information about their services. For instance, I have seen where Tulsa libraries provide information about domestic violence intervention services information in their public restrooms. The idea behind this is that while victims of abuse are kept under surveillance by their abusers and are thus unable to request information about how to escape abuse, the restroom is a place where victims may have a moment of privacy. There they can pick up a “DV restroom card” with info on how to get help and slip it in their purse or pocket without their abuser knowing. The fact that libraries are making an effort to provide information, safely and privately, to a population that desperately needs it—I think the victims that are able to escape because of that information would say the library made a real difference in their lives. This isn’t a small population either—statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
I think the people who learn to read through library literacy programs would say that the library made a real difference in their lives. I think the people who get free tax assistance at the public library, and the people who find employment after using library resume writing and job searching resources would say the same thing.
What we need is a way to stay in contact with the people who have been helped so they can help us advocate for the value of the library. Many nonprofits have speakers’ panels, people who volunteer to speak to groups of people about the value of the service they received at Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, etc. They speak to church groups, rotary groups, the elks, the moose, kiwanis clubs, school kids, to educate them about issues like dating violence, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and how these groups can help. Maybe libraries need speakers’ panels to talk about literacy, intellectual freedom and how to get help with finding the information they need?