Protect Library Workers

Tips for Productive Advocacy

These are aimed both at library staff and their internal efforts, as well as those of us helping on the outside.

  1. Join the #LIBREV discussion community for tips and solidarity.
  2. If you're a staff member trying to advocate on behalf of yourself and others, don't go it alone. Work with your fellow staff and union, if applicable, to craft a consistent message and strategy.
  3. If your union is unresponsive or unhelpful at the library or local level, reach out to the state or national offices for your union (many libraries are in the large and powerful AFSCME or SEIU unions). Check out these tips from a labor organizing call held for library workers on April 9, 2020.
  4. When writing letters and petitions, be respectful and "professional" (that word is rife with privilege and crappy gatekeeping, but it is what it is — the goal here is to not catch any blowback for your methodology in advocating for yourself).
    • Don't overstep boundaries, such as by doxxing or contacting officials via their personal cell phone numbers, etc. This is not likely to end well.
  5. When posting on Twitter, try to protect your voice in advocacy efforts while not sanitizing the truth. Unfortunately, some people who have pushed for libraries to close have been reported and are currently suspended from using the site. This is grotesque censorship, especially when it comes to the management of public services and use of tax dollars, but be mindful of the risk.
  6. What is your state association or state agency doing? If the answer is "nothing," you might need to push them to take more action.
    • Using examples from other states is a good way to do this; check out the Massachusetts Library Association statement on protecting library workers for inspiration or an example to send them.
    • If they are using more lenient language such as only referring to closing to the public, press them to include specific recommendations about not offering any in-person services and advocate for the full payment of all library workers even in the absense of physical work.
  7. Ask for backup where you need it, and join other initiatives for solidarity. Use the #closethelibraries Twitter hashtag.
  8. Contact as many people "up and down the chain" as possible. If a director isn't responding, try the city manager. If the city manager isn't responding, try the mayor. If the mayor isn't responding, try state senators, representatives, or the governor. Same deal goes for the analogous structure of colleges and universities.
    • Even if none of these people get back to you, take some comfort in the fact that you are spreading the word as widely as possible. It may not have an immediate effect, but at least your message isn't just getting stuck with one unhelpful person.
  9. Report it appropriately and immediately if you are being forced to work in violation of shelter-in-place orders. See this list of how to do that by state from the Ask A Manager blog.
  10. Consider speaking to the media, even if it's on background. There is a hugely disturbing and awful story behind the treatment of library workers during this pandemic, and we should try to tell it to journalists in our own words so we can rise above this in the future.
  11. Take breaks and take care of yourself. This is hard, painful work. Know that you are not alone.

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