Art Library Advocacy, Part One: Speaking Up for Libraries

As someone working towards becoming an art librarian, I often find myself in conversations defending the arts, libraries, or both. This task is a bit easier, and a lot more effective, if you have some numbers and compelling arguments to back you up. In this series of posts, I thought I’d share some resources I’ve found that can help us advocate for the arts and for libraries. This first post will look at general library advocacy.


The ALA has some fantastic resources in their Campaign for America’s Libraries. This project works to increase public awareness of the importance of libraries and librarians. Although some points are geared more towards public libraries, many are relevant for the advocacy of libraries in general. Here are a few excerpts from their Key Messages:

Libraries are changing and dynamic places. Today’s libraries go beyond books.  While still offering traditional print resources, libraries have free computers, access to the Internet, free wi-fi and more.” This is one of the most common misconceptions I find among people who don’t often visit libraries. People are perplexed when I tell them my goal is to become a librarian – why devote your career to a dying industry? Whether print books will stick around in future generations or not, this demonstrates the importance of updating the image of libraries and talking about the work we do to stay relevant.

Communicate about librarians as well as libraries.The campaign’s messages are designed to ensure that target audiences know that today’s librarian is a well-trained, technology-savvy, information expert who can enrich the learning process of any library user.” Many people aren’t sure about what exactly librarians do, nor do they realize the difference between librarians and library technicians or library assistants. Here are a few great examples from the Campaign’s Talking Points:

“Librarians are the ultimate search engine. Librarians are trained experts in finding information, wherever it is — in books, in archives, on the Web.”

“In a world of information overload, librarians are information navigators — clearing a path, pointing you toward the information you need.”


The ALA is also a great source for stats and figures. This Quotable Facts about America’s Libraries pamphlet, 2012 edition, has some interesting insights into the current situation of libraries in the U.S. The annotated edition provides links and citations. A few tidbits for academic libraries:

“College libraries receive just less than three cents of every dollar spent on higher education.”

“If the cost of People magazine had risen as fast as the cost of academic library periodicals since 1990, it would cost about $182 for a one-year subscription.”

“There are 584 students enrolled for every librarian in 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in 2010 in the U.S. as compared with 14 students for each teaching faculty member.”

This number is even larger among Canadian Research Libraries: CARL Statistics from 2010-2011 listed 627 students per librarian.


We’d love to hear from you: what are the most common misconceptions you’ve found come up in conversations with non-library-users? How do you respond? What are your tips for speaking up for libraries?


2 Comments on “Art Library Advocacy, Part One: Speaking Up for Libraries”

  1. allanaaa says:

    I’m still digesting the Toronto Public Library’s economic impact report, which came out a few months ago.
    (PDF – )

    It’s not 100% detailed, but it does say things like: It costs $653 an hour to have a library open, but the tangible benefits of access are $2,515 an hour.
    And “The return from the City of Toronto’s investment in the Toronto Public Library is 463%, which is the midpoint of a range very conservatively estimated to be 244% and is comfortably shown to reach 681%.”

    Hard numbers can be very useful sometimes.


  2. […] Art Library Advocacy, Part One: Speaking Up for Libraries […]