IFLA ILP: Project 5: Models for regional collaboration for strengthening advocacy and the profession

Year 1 Project Report, 2013
IFLA International Leaders Programme

Project 5 Team Members:
Atarino Helieisar, Federated States of Micronesia
Zola Maddison (Coordinator), USA
Victoria Okojie, Nigeria
Jorge Ruiz Vaca, Mexico
Rosemary Shafack, Cameroon
Irina Trushina (Facilitator), Russia
Dina Youssef, Egypt

Counsellors:
Helena Asamoah-Hassan, Ghana
Jacinta Were, Kenya

Project Description

The Project aims at developing an international model to foster regional collaboration in strengthening advocacy and the Library and Information Science (LIS) profession. It was agreed that developing a toolkit will be an effective instrument that guides potential partners towards building a mutually beneficial relationship as well as helps organizations or individuals create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to begin a successful collaboration. The toolkit will point potential partners to fundamental information around successful collaboration strategies such as guidelines, communication and advocacy approaches for partnerships and case studies. Case studies will address both the successes and challenges of collaboration.

In addition, the toolkit will strengthen the profession by allowing collaborating organizations to stretch their budgets; engage in more programmes and services than they could have individually; raise the profile of libraries within a region; provide the platform for partnering institutions to build staff skills and widen their professional network; and increase confidence and motivation in library staff.

Programme Associates plan to disseminate the result of their work through IFLA channels such as speaking at meetings and conferences, presenting posters and contributing to IFLA publications. Other channels that will be used include presentations at National and Regional Library Association conferences; meetings of other stakeholders as well as through a written report.

Project Objectives

Objectives of the Toolkit are to:

  • Foster collaboration and partnership within the LIS community;
  • Develop advocacy skills of LIS professionals;
  • Strengthen the LIS profession;
  • Provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for relevant documents on advocacy;
  • Provide an instrument, with global relevance, that could be used for advocacy.

Achievements/Outcomes:

During the 2012 IFLA Conference, Project 5 worked together to identify the priorities for the group and responsibilities of the members. Through this process, the Group determined the need to create a Toolkit that would provide resources (templates, case studies, articles, etc.) that strengthen the library community’s advocacy skills. This Toolkit would focus particularly on maximizing collaboration to strengthen libraries’ advocacy efforts. The group also determined that a multi-country survey was a crucial step to developing the Toolkit. The survey would serve two purposes:

  1. Understand current advocacy skill gaps in the profession that the Toolkit should address;
  2. Identify current best practices or specific resources that could be shared on the Toolkit.

Over the course of the year, the Project 5 team worked together to write, distribute, and analyse this survey. Through the survey, the team was able to gather input from approximately 300 library professionals across 26 countries.

Highlights

A survey was conducted by a working group of IFLA International Leaders Programme on regional collaboration for strengthening advocacy and the profession from March-May 2013 with the use of a questionnaire. The 7 members of the working group from 7 countries took part in conducting the survey. The English-language version of the questionnaire used SurveyMonkey service while the Russian-language version was put on Russian Library Association website. 275 respondents used the English-language version while 25 used Russian-language version. The Russian-language responses were translated into English and added to the responses from English language respondents. The most active respondents were those from the Arab countries (150) who constituted about 52% of the respondents. It is perhaps important to note that Western European countries with their rich tradition of library services were not targeted in this survey, which, therefore, reduces the value in making global generalizations.

The respondents were mostly experts in the field of librarianship. From the responses received, it was observed that most librarians outside Europe and the US were aware of the concept of advocacy and the issues to be addressed, however, their level of knowledge of global LIS advocacy issues and strategies being used to address these were limited. Furthermore, it was observed that advocacy issues were hardly dealt with separately but closely intertwined with other challenges in some developing countries. This could be partly the reason why some of the non-respondents did not complete the questionnaire. These strategies must be taken into account in developing a Toolkit of global relevance because the responses illustrated the diversity of understanding of the concept of advocacy by librarians around the world.

The largest group of respondents were from university libraries. This could be due to the fact that in many developing countries, university libraries are the most "advanced", often performing additional functions, sometimes even as national libraries. Consequently, the staff of these libraries usually drive library community. However, in Russia, public libraries usually take the lead.

The survey shows that only 69.7% of respondents were members of a library association. This has serious implications for membership drive for national library associations which is an important ingredient in strengthening the profession. Promoting the use of the IFLA Building Strong Library Associations Modules would be a good action point for the national library associations.

The survey also shows that only 30.7% of the libraries had a budget for advocacy. For an issue as important as advocacy that can bring about positive changes in the LIS community, it is necessary for more libraries to set aside a specific budget.

In terms of the types of organizations which libraries partnered with for advocacy, most of the respondents indicated that they partnered with other libraries, which confirms the view that the problems of libraries are best understood by librarians. Other organizations that libraries partnered with in order of preference included professional library associations; Non-Governmental Organizations; government agencies and the business community respectively. This makes it apparent that libraries are sadly not as prominent in the world of power and money.

Respondents were also requested to list the best partners in their advocacy efforts. From the responses, it was again obvious they felt their best partners were other libraries. 46 respondents said "other libraries" while, government offices had 29 respondents; the library associations - 24; non-governmental organizations - 12 and business community - 11. Only 4 respondents stated "others" as their response. Thus, the answers to this question are generally consistent with the answers to the previous: indicating that Libraries rely primarily on other libraries in dealing with their interests. Attractive as a partner as the business community should be, it ranked lowest.

65 respondents gave examples of a successful partnership and mentioned the advocacy programs\policies they implemented. The responses gave many different examples of libraries doing advocacy in collaboration with other institutions. An analysis of the questionnaire assisted in classifying these examples from the point of view of what partners were mentioned in the responses. (It should be borne in mind that one answer may be referenced by multiple partners). These were:

Other libraries - 16 respondents
NGOs - 10 respondents
Library Associations - 9 respondents
Government Institutions 6 respondents
Scientific and educational institutions 3 respondents
Media 3 respondents
Society of Friends of the Library 2 respondents
International organizations 2 respondents
Business 1 respondent
Other 16 respondents

Conclusions

  1. The survey had a character of expert interview. It was a probe survey, to find out the interest to a problem and if there are existing practices to solve the problems.
  2. The survey showed that there was an interest by librarians from different countries to examine the problems of library advocacy. However, it was evident that there were differences in understanding the cognitive nature of advocacy-related problems. It would be highly desirable to corroborate the research findings using "soft methods of sociology” such as interviewing, focus groups and so on.
  3. The concept of "advocacy" has not yet become ubiquitous, and what is generally recognized by the library community as advocacy refers to all forms of social partnership and cooperation between libraries
  4. The most common group of partners in advocacy was between libraries. This coincides with a rating of potential, desirable partners. In second place, with a significant margin was between libraries and government agencies. It is worthy of note also that the role of professional associations was said to be essential, however, their potential value as the main organizer of the library's advocacy work was not clearly disclosed.
  5. Perhaps, it is pertinent to reiterate that the key issues that libraries would solve through cooperation are not so much to increase funding and other types of financial aid, but rather issues such as improving the image of libraries, attracting new readers, providing new services, capacity-building of staff and providing library-friendly legislation.

Plans for Year 2

Using the survey data, Project 5 Team will continue to discuss and analyse the data presented through the survey. We will use these findings to create a complete Toolkit on regional collaboration for Advocacy by:
1. Identifying the core advocacy needs to be covered within the Toolkit;
2. Identifying existing resources that can fill those needs;
3. Identifying resource gaps;
4. Creating or soliciting resources to fill gaps.

This Toolkit will be available for anyone to access through the IFLA website, and we plan to do a public presentation of the Toolkit at the 2014 IFLA conference.

LDP (Library Development Programme), leadership, IFLA International Leaders Programme, Advocacy, Collaboration, regions

Last update: 5 December 2017