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Introducing OLA’s Advocacy Toolkit

Introducing OLA’s Advocacy Toolkit

By Sarah Roberts

One of OLA’s strategic priorities is “influencing policy and demonstrating value.” This priority aims to “grow and focus OLA’s advocacy and government relations strategy on targeted goals and define measures for assessing progress and success.” The OLA Advocacy Committee has a mandate to support initiatives on current issues and to develop strategies related to library advocacy in Ontario. The committee members are:

  • Co-Chair: Dana Vanzanten (Public Library)
  • Co-Chair: Jesse Carliner (Academic Library, University)
  • Dawn Telfer (School Library)
  • Jason Bird (Academic Library, College)
  • David Thornley

And the ex-officio members include:

  • Current OLA President
  • Shelagh Paterson, Executive Director (OLA)
  • Sarah Roberts, Advocacy & Research Officer (OLA)

Together, we are working to organize networking and communication opportunities and to make resources related to advocacy available to libraries. To fulfill our mandate, we officially launched the OLA Advocacy Toolkit in May 2019.

We have created the toolkit to help OLA members, from all library sectors, advocate for libraries and to broaden the community of library advocates in Ontario. The purpose of the toolkit is twofold:

  • To provide guidance on how to advocate effectively
  • To link to additional resources for members who wish to learn more about the art of advocacy

What’s inside? Something for everyone, but not the same thing for everyone
No matter the type of library with which you are involved—academic, public, school, special—support from your local stakeholders, decision makers, and leaders is essential to ensure that you and your library have the resources and connections you need.

While we hope that everyone will find the resources in the toolkit helpful, we know that advocacy across the various library sectors looks different. For instance, the template and guidelines for meeting with political leaders (p. 11) may be most useful to public librarians, who rely on funding from the local and the provincial government. The template on how to craft a value statement and to develop an elevator pitch (p. 16) will likely be helpful to all types of librarians, no matter who the target of the advocacy may be.

We’ve also included some tips on how to advocate in your community (p. 17) and on how to pitch a story to local media (p. 21) and tons of resources on library advocacy (p. 25), public library impact research (p. 25), school library impact research (p. 27) and academic library impact research (p. 27).

What’s next?
The conversation isn’t over! Advocating for libraries will look different to different people, and we want to share stories on how you are advocating for libraries in your context. Do you have advocacy stories about something that worked in your area? Or that didn’t work?

Get in touch with me (Sarah Roberts) to talk about some ways you can share your stories—as a webinar, an Open Shelf article or a conference presentation.

    • Download the toolkit now: bit.ly/OLAAdvocacyToolkit.
    • Learn more: Members of the OLA Advocacy Committee will be hosting free sector-specific webinars over the next six months. You can access recordings or sign up for upcoming webinars on the OLA website.
    • Fill in the gaps: Complete this feedback form so we’ll know which resources to add (we’ll be adding in more resources regularly).

In these times, library advocacy is more important than ever, and we all need to do our part. We hope you will use this toolkit at your institution to demonstrate the value of libraries to a broad spectrum of stakeholders and, more importantly, to a range of potential supporters. Together, we can continue to show why libraries, in all their incarnations, matter.


Sarah Roberts is the Advocacy & Research Officer of the Ontario Library Association.

Feature and slider photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

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