IF & Advocacy Boot Camp at TLA 2017

Advocacy, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Office for Intellectual Freedom

By: Pat Peters

Intellectual Freedom and Advocacy BootcampAs chair of the Texas Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee for 2016-2017, part of my responsibilities included planning intellectual freedom-related programming for the TLA Annual Conference in San Antonio in April 2017. The committee had decided that we wanted some basic instruction on what intellectual freedom is and why it’s important in our daily library lives.

So we were thrilled to learn that ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and Office for Library Advocacy (OLA) have teamed up to offer IF & Advocacy Boot Camp sessions. We set the Boot Camp as a three-hour pre-conference on the opening day of TLA with OIF Director Jamie LaRue and OLA Director Marci Merola as facilitators.

Our Boot Camp audience was a mix of experienced and rookie library staff from a variety of library types and across the organizational spectrum as well as members of TLA staff. We jumped right into community interviews with each other, seeking out someone we didn’t know, someone not from our own community, to interview about the big issues facing their communities in the coming months.

In the course of the session, we learned some important factors to keep in mind:

  • Speak with a unified voice. A single message told again and again will have much more impact than assorted messages, no matter how worthwhile, coming from the library.
  • Focus your message on what libraries do for and with people, rather than what libraries have for people. ALA’s “Libraries Transform” campaign is a great vehicle for that focus.
  • Build a network of library advocates who will carry your message throughout your community.
  • Remember that libraries’ brand is access for all and intellectual freedom is one of our core values.

Boot Camp materials included an overview of IF foundational documents, activities and issues.
The session wrapped up with some hands-on time for building an advocacy plan, with tools including a checklist of personal, professional, organizational and association-wide considerations.

At the heart of the entire session, just as at the heart of any good advocacy plan, LaRue and Merola told stories: stories of cute kids and puppies, stories of serious challenges to freedom of information, stories about building a balanced collection, stories of communities coming together to support their local libraries. Both our facilitators are natural storytellers, so the time flew by while we soaked in the stories and learned about IF & advocacy at the same time.

Participants gave positive feedback about the session and, across the board, agreed that they had new tools to make an impact at their libraries and in their communities.

You can bring Boot Camp to your professional group as well. Contact OIF Director Jamie LaRue at jlarue@ala.org or OLA Director Marci Merola at mmerola@ala.org to start planning. As we worked to schedule and support this session, we had several TLA partner groups join us in bringing IF & Advocacy Boot Camp to San Antonio, including LGBT Round Table, Latino Caucus, Black Caucus, Public Libraries Division and Texas Association for School Librarians. Be creative to find willing partners to support your Boot Camp experience.

Good luck!


Patricia PetersPat Peters is director of the Decatur Public Library in Decatur, Texas. In her spare time, she is an adjunct professor of Library Science for Texas Woman’s University, having taught both graduate and undergraduate Children’s Literature and Youth Programming. Pat is the 2016-17 chair of the Texas Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee. Pat and her husband Jeff live in Denton, Texas. Pat can sometimes be found @PatriciaP628.

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