Recommendation # 14
Develop an "Ohio Library Council" model for advocacy.
Ohio is widely heralded as a model for public library funding. The activity of the Ohio Library Council (OLC) over many years is at least in part responsible for the unparalleled funding received by Ohio’s public libraries. 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 OLC has individual members, institutional memberships are stressed. A large number of Ohio libraries are "Honor Roll" libraries and pay dues on behalf of all of their staff. In addition, many other libraries pay healthy dues on a sliding scale that enables full-time professional lobbying activity on behalf of libraries. OLC also encourages memberships from automation vendors, book jobbers, and other commercial entities that benefit from healthy public libraries. More information on the Ohio Library Council can be found at:
We are not recommending an OLC model for advocacy because we believe that Virginia needs another library association. The model we are suggesting might well find its home in the Virginia Library Association or, alternatively, it might be an extension of the Virginia Public Library Directors’ Association. The point is that if Virginia hopes to provide high quality public library services to all of its citizens, the library community must ratchet up the level of its legislative, advocacy, and lobbying activity.
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. The OLC model recognizes that advocacy is more than a part time activity. 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.
Recommendation # 15
Organize and prepare library trustees and members of library Friends organizations to be advocates for libraries.
The consultants believe that library trustees and Friends are underutilized as advocates for libraries in Virginia. We are aware that there have been efforts to establish a statewide Friends organization and that there is a Trustees and Friends Forum within the Virginia Library Association. However, neither of these efforts represents an effective mechanism for mobilizing the skills and political influence of citizens who love and care about libraries.
We believe that the OLC model described above could be used as a means to develop a dedicated and organized corps of well-informed citizens who could speak, both locally and at the State level, on behalf of libraries. The paid staff at the OLC-style organization could contact every director in the State and could identify and recruit a few as one trustee and one Friend from each library to serve as part of a Friends and Trustees Legislative Network.
Training and legislative issues sessions could be held in each region across the State on a regular basis. A listserv could be utilized to inform network members of pending legislation, issues of importance and to mobilize the troops when phone calls and letters to legislators are needed.
Recommendation # 16
The Library of Virginia and the Virginia Public Library Directors’ Association should work together to develop a more symbiotic, 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.
The consultants believe that there is much to be gained through a more symbiotic, synergistic relationship between the Library of Virginia and the public libraries of the State. The dispersion of public libraries throughout the State provides the Library of Virginia with a widespread network of institutions that share many of the same goals as the Library of Virginia and that could act as a distribution point for information and services as well as a widespread advocacy network. On the other hand, the Library Virginia is a well-respected and highly visible institution in the State Capital that is obviously associated with libraries. Greater visibility of the Library of Virginia in regard to public library issues could assist efforts to improve the overall quality of public library services in the Commonwealth.
The consultants recommend that the Library of Virginia Board meet with representatives of the Virginia Public Library Directors’ Association to explore ways in which the Library of Virginia and public libraries can coordinate efforts to support each other.
Recommendation # 17
The Library of Virginia should work with the public library community to seek support from 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 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.
Virginia might adopt a model used by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to carry out such an effort. MBLC was able to convince historian and author David McCullough to act as a spokesperson for public libraries in a professionally produced campaign. Given that Virginia is home to a large number of significant authors and historians, many of whom are familiar with the Library of Virginia, the consultants believe that one or more high profile authors could be located who would be willing to lend their name(s) and their time to the effort.