New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

From the President: December 2013

Photo of Sara Kelly Johns

The Library Ecosystem: Advocacy Through Engagement

Sara Kelly Johns, NYLA President

Every time we go to the NYLA homepage, the logo at the top proclaims that NYLA is the voice of the library community, a community that provides access to dynamic information services and literacy education in every type of library in the state. The NYLA Legislative Committee and the National Library Legislative Committee work diligently and intelligently to position NYLA as an organization with the standing to represent all libraries, library workers and the people who use them as legislative decisions are made in Albany and in Washington. But if those 30 or so NYLA members were the only ones speaking on behalf of libraries, that voice would only be a whisper.  It is the voice of the 4000 plus NYLA members and their advocates that raises our voice into a shout that cannot be ignored.

Last year, NYLA’s advocacy made a difference. In a year of legislative cuts, Library Aid was maintained, not lowered. WE did that together.

At the NYLA conference in Niagara Falls, the “presidents,” (Carol Anne Germaine, Geoffrey Kirkpatrick and I) spent one evening travelling to various section and committee meetings to share updates on NYLA activities. The strength of having a person from each of the larger library types—academic, public and school—was dramatic that night.

Right now, there is a crisis in New York State libraries that, as a school librarian, I know intimately.  School librarians are reeling, often from double hits from losing positions and losing program funding. NYLA can step up our efforts to advocate more strongly through a united approach with NYLA’s voice, a very loud voice. WE can do that.

I was inspired in 2008 by the work of then ALA President Jim Rettig, an academic librarian, who used the office of the American Library Association President to focus on the ecosystem, the related continuum, of all library types:


We need to sustain and strengthen our advocacy efforts on behalf of all libraries. I view our school, public, academic, and other types of libraries as parts of an integrated library ecosystem. If one part of the system is threatened or suffers, the entire system is threatened and suffers. We know that libraries offer incredible lifelong learning opportunities, yet no one type of library can deliver learning opportunities from cradle to grave. Through our library ecosystem, however, we offer these opportunities in abundance…we and our supporters at the grassroots level can convey this message to decision-makers and the public at large. Yes, we can strengthen our advocacy efforts for the benefit of every type of library! Advocacy on behalf of libraries is advocacy on behalf of the American people!

At the November 7th NYLA Council Meeting, the Council unanimously passed a proposal to create a Joint NYLA Task Force on School Library Advocacy that will develop a virtual portal of messages for the local stakeholders who make the decisions about school library positions and budgets—administrators, teachers, community members, legislators and even students—that are New York State-centered. Using available advocacy materials from NYLA, our sections and national initiatives, we will focus on a “five minute advocacy” model giving all librarians and their core of advocates access to research, multimedia, print publications, data, and testimonials.  It will also include current “action needed” alerts and steps for participation to support school library advocacy campaigns.

The result will provide a loud voice for a healthy ecosystem of New York State libraries. Students will graduate “college and career ready,” ready to use all libraries to be lifelong learners. WE can do that!