COMMUNITIES AND LIBRARIES: An Advocacy Training Program that enabled eight states to strengthen library advocacy within local communities is being expanded with additional funding from the Viburnum Foundation.  All states are being solicited by Libraries for the Future to apply for participation in Phase II of the program.  Eight states (a mix of original and new participants) will be selected for the second phase, which will build on the lessons learned during the initial program.

The funding from the Viburnum Foundation now totals To authorize funding for the National Advocacy Cente , making it one of the largest philanthropic donations in support of public library advocacy.

The focus of the first phase of the program was to create a framework for mobilizing support for public libraries at the state and local levels in states with low per-capita support.  Using technical assistance and training, the project created:

  • A team of skilled Mentor-Advocates
  • An Advocacy Resources Bureau
  • A Citizen-Advocate’s Resource Manual on Library Advocacy
  • A project list-serv to facilitate communication among participants
  • An on-line Electronic Mentoring process to make skills and advice available nationally

Library collection preservation and security programs increasingly compete for resources with an expanding array of rigorous collection, service, and technology needs. In a recent survey of Association of Research Libraries member libraries on preservation programs, lack of funding was overwhelmingly identified as the leading preservation challenge” says Jim G. Neal Executive Director of Libraries for the Future.  “And, importantly, states involved in the project now have a framework for mobilizing advocacy for public libraries at the state and local levels that may last long after the funding period.”

In addition to continuing to build on the achievements of Phase I, Phase II will emphasize:

  • Programs to enhance the advocacy skills of trustees
  • Technology access as a critical aspect of library advocacy
  • Additional mentoring responsibilities with a focus on follow-up activities

The development of a cadre of skilled mentors who work with state and local libraries is critical to developing and expanding citizen ownership and support for libraries both now and in the future.  Operating via the Internet and in hands-on activities, these advocates will conduct local workshops, facilitate meetings with local legislators and develop public awareness campaigns leading to more successful fundraising.  Participating states may also select workshops carried out by the developers of the New York Library Association’s Public Awareness Project.

Key to the selection of the next states will be the cooperation between members of a state’s library community and their uniform commitment to building a strong state advocacy infrastructure.

Participants in the original project included: Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.

COMMUNITIES AND LIBRARIES: An Advocacy Training Program is organized by Libraries for the Future in cooperation with Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA).  Libraries for the Future is a national nonprofit organization that works to achieve equal access to the information and knowledge essential for a democratic society.  LFF mobilizes private and public support for programs with libraries, schools and community partners to improve information access, literacy and media skills.  FOLUSA is a nonprofit organization that provides its 2500 member groups with a variety of programs and support materials.

An Advocacy Training Program, PHASE 2


In January 1998, upon application of Libraries for the Future, the Viburnum Foundation provided a grant of $225,000 for the launch of COMMUNITIES AND LIBRARIES: An Advocacy Training Program.  The goals of the project were to:

  • Increase public support for libraries in up to 32 communities in 8 states.
  • Diversify, expand and coordinate the community of library advocates in participating localities.
  • Develop a network of 25 skilled volunteer advocates to mentor and provide technical support and assistance to the designated communities.
  • Create a library of advocacy resources and a technical assistance bureau.
  • Establish an infrastructure for long-term sustained advocacy based on cooperation between various advocacy groups and coalition-building in local communities.

The selected states were:  Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont.

Phase 1 Accomplishments:

  • 27 local, regional and statewide workshops and meetings reached almost 1,000 people.
  • Creation of the Citizen-Advocate’s Resource Manual on Library Advocacy which includes the best examples of advocacy information materials available.  Specially designed adaptations of the manual were distributed at the local workshops.
  • Supported the formation of local coalitions of state libraries, library associations and Friends and/or Trustee groups.
  • Established a team of advocate-mentors who brought their expertise into the 8 states.
  • Developed on-line electronic mentoring, an Advocacy-Talk list-serv and technical assistance based on project experiences to over 120 individuals and organizations outside of project participants.

Based on the encouraging results of the first phase of the project, in January, 2000 the Viburnum Foundation announced that it will provide $250,000 for the continuation and expansion of COMMUNITIES AND LIBRARIES: An Advocacy Training Program.

As in the first phase, grant money will not be given directly to
the states, but will be used for the development of advocacy
programs within participating states, and for the development
and distribution of advocacy materials.

Phase 2 Overview:

A maximum of 8 states, including three or four of the original participants, will be selected for programs in the period 2000-2002.

In addition to the goals defined in the original project, several additional elements will be incorporated into the project:

  • Programs directed to enhancing the skills of trustees to be more effective advocates.
  • Programs which address the impact of technology access on library advocacy efforts.
  • Additional mentoring responsibilities beyond participation in local and/or regional workshops, especially in the area of follow-up activities.

We will continue to encourage state project coordinators to work with us to develop a combination of programming that is based on specific goals, and which can include:

  • Community workshops to meet local needs
  • Regional and/or statewide meetings to address specific state goals
  • Individual mentoring on a one-to-one (coaching) basis
  • Inclusion of the New York Library Association’s program on its Public Awareness Project

The grant provides for a maximum of 4 advocacy training events which involve the presence of project mentors.  If financial support can be provided by individual states, the possibility of additional activities can be explored.

Libraries for the Future


Community Library Advocacy Project is a special national initiative conducted by Libraries for the Future (LFF) and Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA). The goals of the project are to increase citizen support for public libraries and to build the capacities of local library advocates in 32 local communities in 8 states with low local per capita support of libraries.

Project activities include:

  • state-based advocacy programs with the state library, state friends groups, state library associations, and/or statewide trustee associations to inform local groups about the project; select local sites for intense support and training and involve them in a National Library Advocates Network;
  • a National Advocacy Resources Bureau — including a database, mentoring service, referrals, technical assistance and a clearinghouse of information;
  • a Mentorship and local Assistance Program in recruitment and training of 25 mentor – advocates from around the country and coordination of local technical assistance for targeted communities;
  • a Library Advocacy Publication (title to be determined) that will profile successful advocacy campaigns and highlight innovative techniques for library advocacy efforts;

Partners: Friends of Libraries U.S.A., participating state agencies and local advocacy organizations.


The Viburnum Foundation grants have made possible the establishment of a new model for reaching, training and supporting individuals and groups to become more effective spokespeople and advocates for the public library.

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