Advocacy has been on my mind for a number of reasons. First of all, if you know where I work (Foothills Branch Library in Glendale) and read the local news, you know that there has been some heated debate about my library’s future this month. While advocacy, a public support for a cause, is key in any library situation such as the one my library is in; it is also important for the day-to-day role the library plays in your own community. Having advocates tell your library’s story in the community is always more valuable than when a librarian tells it. Of course, the librarian is going to be pro-library—that’s the librarian’s job. But when a teen stands up and says “I stayed in school because of the support the library and its staff provided” that shows the value of the library to the community in a completely different way.
The question remains, how does the library gain its advocates? By providing excellent customer service. By being present in their patrons’ lives. By showing we care about the needs of our patrons and community. By providing that extra service to the patrons who can be a bit of a headache can make a difference. I’ve seen it happen over and over. But what about teens? I have found tween and teens can make the most powerful advocates of them all. When a child or teen speaks up about how the library helps them, it makes adults step back and remind themselves that children and their needs are a top priority for a community.
In order to gain those teen advocates though, the library staff must advocate for sufficient teen resources. Whether it’s a dedicated budget, staff, programs, or supplies that’s lacking at your particular library, it is up to the staff to fight for those resources. When I took on my role as a supervisor, I was pulled further away from teen services. It didn’t mean that I stopped being an advocate for teens though. Each library needs to have someone on staff that is willing to advocate for the teens’ needs. I encourage you all to step up to be an advocate. Once your teen patrons know you are willing to be a voice for them, they will be a voice for the library.