Public Library Advocacy
14.) Develop an “ Ohio Library Council” model for advocacy.
Ohio is widely heralded as a model for public library funding. OLC serves as Ohio’ s public library association, as a coordinator of continuing education, and most importantly, as the center of legislative advocacy and lobbying activity on behalf of the State’ s public libraries.
While the expectation that the Library of Virginia will serve as an advocate (not a lobbyist) for public libraries is reasonable, it is NOT reasonable to expect that the Library of Virginia will be able to deliver the full measure of initiatives and funding outlined throughout this report. Virginia has benefited from the hard work of many dedicated individuals who have worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of Virginia’ s libraries. The Virginia Library Association’ s legislative advocate has been a tremendous asset to libraries as well. However, as public dollars have become increasingly hard to come by, libraries in many states have come to recognize that the time has come to take advocacy and lobbying to the next level.
Task Force Response:
Both the Virginia Library Association (VLA) and the Virginia Public Library Directors Association (VPLDA) realized that obtaining the annual funding for the VLA legislative liaison by seeking donations from Friends groups, individuals, etc. was not the preferred method. Funds collected are limited by the financial status or attitude of the Friends, IRS requirements, changing issues facing libraries, and many other variables. The current legislative liaison regards libraries as his “ in the public interest” cause and devotes more time than can be expected for the funding collected. This generosity, while deeply appreciated, cannot be guaranteed.
After studying the Ohio model and considering different funding opportunities, the Advocacy Task Force recommended that VPLDA should be approached with a suggestion to consider requesting VLA to revise its membership structure to include institutional memberships with the additional costs directed to the funding for the legislative liaison.
The following paragraphs are selections from the organizational minutes:
Virginia Public Library Directors Association
November 9, 2006
Himmel and Wilson Update: Jerry McKenna also presented information on behalf of the advocacy task force looking at the Himmel and Wilson report. One of the main issues that task force is addressing is securing sustainable funding for the legislative liaison. Currently, three library systems—Jefferson–Madison Regional Library, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, and Williamsburg Regional Library—provide most of the funding. The cost for the liaison will rise from $32,000 to $37,000. Institutional membership is being proposed as a way of approaching the funding issue. Jerry distributed a sheet of proposed institutional membership dues based on state aid. Fran Freimarck spoke in favor of this proposal. Sue Burton agreed that institutional dues seem to be the best avenue for sustainability and urged fellow directors to put the amount in their budgets now. Harriet Henderson asked about a timeline for adopting this approach. Ruth Arnold said that what the discussion was really about is a recommendation from VPLDA to VLA for institutional membership dues; most libraries are not currently institutional members. More discussion ensued about the term “ dues.” Tom Emory questioned whether the smallest libraries will be able to afford this method, though he is in favor of it. John Moorman moved that the proposed plan be sent to VLA; the motion passed resoundingly.
Virginia Library Association Council
Jefferson–Madison Regional Library, Northside Branch
2 February 2007
Treasurer’ s Report
Sue [Burton] reported on the unanimously approved VPLDA motion from 9 November to recommend an institutional dues structure. The structure is based on the percentage of state aid received by each public library. The VPLDA proposal has resulted from the Himmel and Wilson study, which recommended better funding for full time advocacy for public libraries. Institutional membership benefit allows one attendance at the VLAPF and VLA conferences. Jerry McKenna added that VPLDA’ s proposal represents an effort to find a long term solution to advocacy, to reduce ongoing begging, which has become even more challenging because several Friends groups have pulled back on support. It would be desirable to build to annual income of $50,000 to buy even more time for advocacy. Ruth noted that VPLDA has planned to initiate the process for public libraries’ 2007–08 fiscal year, in time for VLA’s 2008 calendar year. Money from this institutional membership would be applied to advocacy, and costs are on a sliding scale to make them affordable for all. VPLDA had studied other states’ structures in developing this one. Sue also noted that participation is voluntary, libraries cannot be forced to pay, and that it may take several years to get income up to full level support. Ruth clarified that VLA’s issue–related lobbying meets conditions of the IRS and does not exceed the 20% limit. The executive committee has approved VPLDA’s proposal and recommends its adoption by VLA. Upon a motion by Jim Sanderson to ratify VPLDA’s proposal, and a second by Julie Ramsey, Council unanimously approved this action. Jerry credited Linda with the dues structure formula; she noted that dues can be paid through PayPal.
Action has been taken to improve the financial stability of the VLA legislative liaison position.
15.) Organize and prepare library trustees and members of library Friends organizations to be advocates for libraries.
In Roanoke on June 4 – 5, 2007 and in Richmond on June, 7 – 8, 2007, 189 directors, trustees, and friends participated in the Library Advocacy Now! workshop with presenters Sally Reed, Friends of the Library USA and Stephanie Vance, Advocacy Advocates. Though the final proof of the workshop’s success will be evident if library causes/funding improve, the workshop evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. The outstanding handouts, presentations, and evaluations may be found at www.vpl.lib.va.us/trustees/advocacy07handouts.htm.
This task is not completed. Continuous training for library stakeholders must be provided.
16.) The Library of Virginia and the Virginia Public Library Directors’ Association should work together to develop a more synergistic relationship.
Unlike state library agencies in some states that exist primarily for the purpose of fostering public library development, the Library of Virginia is a multi–faceted organization with a wide variety of responsibilities. Many public library directors have perceived the emphasis that the Library of Virginia has placed on some of its other priorities as a lack of interest in public libraries. Whether or not the perception matches reality, there is room for improvement in the relationship between and among the public library community, the Librarian of Virginia, and the Library of Virginia Board.
Since this recommendation was presented, there have been significant changes at LVA and in the public library community. Nolan Yelich, Librarian of Virginia since 1995 retired June 30, 2007. Dr. Sandra G. Treadway was appointed Librarian of Virginia, effective July 1, 2007. New members of The Library Board were appointed whose interest in public libraries services quickly became evident. Activist board members have sought public library concerns. All relationships are improved.
17.) The Library of Virginia should work with the public library community to seek support from private foundations to develop and implement a major public awareness campaign on behalf of public libraries.
Although many Virginians use their public libraries regularly, many others are largely unaware of the depth and breadth of services that libraries offer and of the relevance of those services to their own lives. A major media campaign is needed to address this situation. Because some might question the propriety of using tax dollars to support a public relations campaign, the consultants believe that private foundation support should be solicited for this purpose. As a highly respected statewide institution, the Library of Virginia is in an excellent position to seek such funding and to supervise the development and implementation of the public awareness effort.
While this recommendation is yet to be implemented, the Library of Virginia Foundation is eager to work with the public library community. Given the significant staffing changes at LVA, such a campaign offers an opportunity to highlight the services/cooperation of all types of libraries.
Members of the Advocacy Task Force:
Donna Cote, Director, Central Rappahannock Regional Library Chairman
Jerry McKenna, Director, County of Henrico Public Library
John Halliday, Director, Jefferson–Madison Regional Library
Steve Preston, Director, Amherst County Public Library
Charlotte Parsons, Director, Washington County Public Library
Kay Brooks, Director, Caroline County Public Library
Janis Augustine, Director, Salem Public Library
Ron Kozolowski, Retired
June 21, 2006 (pdf)