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The last of my carefully collected CD-ROMs were binned at the summer. No computer in the school can play them. Video disk players, audio tapes, CD players – all used in my time as a school librarian, all gone.

And of course since the digital age means ‘everything’ is online, there’s no need for hard copy resources, therefore no need for libraries, the place that hoards such antiques (because of course, the technology having got this far will stop now, right?!?)

As Audrey Sutton pointed out right at the start of the Autumn Gathering, change in resources is nothing new: from Sumerian tablets to digital tablets, libraries are still here.

However, it was striking how often advocacy cropped up in this year’s Autumn Gathering; striking but not surprising, because libraries are undoubtedly under threat, usually from people who don’t know what we do, and probably don’t care.

Barbara Band‘s Shout about advocacy gave a great overview:

  • advocacy is not just speaking up for ourselves, but getting others to speak up for us;
  • advocacy has to be an ongoing, sustained effort;
  • advocacy should be done collectively, within our own workplaces, and for ourselves

The need for advocacy is embedded in all the media reports of our demise: too many people do not know what it is that libraries do, or have an outdated or simplistic idea. The best folks to explain is us, and we’ve got to keep on explaining, over and over again.

Barbara quoted Steve Bowman of the University of Chichester:

“30% of our success is due to skills and experience but 70% is due to visibility”

Worth considering. But as Barbara also pointed out when you’re good at something, you make it look easy. And if it looks simple, then anyone can do it – right?

Um, naw. But Barbara provided some guidance:

  • small things can still make an impact
  • consider what you’re already doing in your own organisation: what’s the impact? what can you improve on?
  • make sure you’re advertising what you are doing
  • finally, don’t forget people’s opinions of you as a librarian will impact on how they view the entire profession.

The challenge: we need to make ourselves into a tribe, make ourselves visible, share with each other, share with our bosses, then share with everyone – what do we do, and what impact are we having? And who’s going to lose out without us?

Presentations from the Autumn Gathering are available here.

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