Advocacy training for European library associations - successful on many levels

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 13:30

Advocacy trainign for European library associations 'Increase the Power of Your Influence: Individually and Collectively' gathered 26 representatives from library associations across Europe: presidents, Directors and Public Library Directors from 19 EU countries. The goal of the event was to help participants improve their advocacy skills, provide a platform for active networking and knowledge sharing, and build the understanding of and platform for supporting EBLIDA’s work at European level. The advocacy trainign was organized as part of the PL2020 small grants program and took place in Brussels on February 2-3.

The organisers - European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA) and Latvian Librarians Association (LAL) - spent the last month reflecting back and evaluating the success of the event. Read below what they have learned, including a few testimonials!

Networking is the keyword!
All participants agreed that the participation at the training expanded their informal networks, helped to build new contacts and strengthened relationships.
The opportunity to network in a meaningful way with a great group of colleagues who I found interesting, intelligent and inspiring.”
“I made real connections with 100% of the participants – and not the usual 30-50%”.
Time spent at individual /personal level was helpful!
Many participants didn’t expect the agenda and exercises to also be focused on individual change and personal effectiveness but in the end among other takeaways they reported on the importance of taking care of themselves on a  personal level to be able to develop their professional power of influence.
“It strengthened me as a person, even gave me more self-confidence.”
“I learned about my strengths and behavioural change from colleagues and this was very helpful.”
“How can you be a leader if you are stagnant. It is a great opportunity to get more power, self-confidence and update knowledge.”
Sharing advocacy stories and improving messaging is the way to go!
Sharing advocacy success stories, best cases and learning from each other’s stories were ranked at the top of exercises that participants believe helped to increase their individual power of influence and advocacy capacities. The most powerful exercise enabling an increase in our collective power of influence and advocacy capacities, as ranked by participants, was messaging exercise during which we developed advocacy messages in 5 important areas including copyright, social value of libraries, data collection, digital literacy, reading and e-reading.
“Creation of a toolbox is a great idea. Deeply elaborated messages is what we need. A common strategy in delivering the right messages is mandatory.”
“The event gave me the opportunity to gather information from colleagues scattered in Europe.”
We can help each other in our joint efforts!
One third of the event participants are engaged with EBLIDA’s daily work. Knowing this we are happy to learn that the other two thirds admit that the participation at the event enhanced their understanding of ELIBDA’s priorities and the way advocacy work can contribute to these. Almost half of the participants said that this event will make a difference in the way they undertake actions on EU level that would be beneficial to EBLIDA and other EU organisations. We also can expect national organisations to benefit from Library Advocates of LibA4EU network (7 out of 10 participants reported that this event will make a difference in the way they undertake actions at the national level).
“Everything on the agenda was helpful to me professionally and in my role as a national library association representative, and I took away many practical tips on how to plan and carry out library advocacy initiatives.”
“EBLIDA was something on EU level, now I know EBLIDA, the importance and the possible benefits to national organisations.”
Follow up is important!
Some of the questions that participants believe still need  further discussing are: What to do if we are not successful? What challenges are there ahead of us? To whom will our initiatives be a burden? How to coordinate this network with other existing networks (such as PL2020 Advocacy lab, PL2020 Research Group on Public Libraries, etc.) and how to ensure that the creation of additional networks doesn’t end in a pilling-up of groups working in silo, or not working?
“I think the event was a great success on many levels with enduring value and it would be well worth following up on the plans initiated and networks formed”
“We will be special friends forever!”
To be continued.