Because libraries depend on public funds, politics are a fundamental part of marketing the library. As a trustee, your role is to be an advocate on behalf of the library and the citizens who use its services, extending your local public relations activities to elected officials to show them that public libraries are a factor in creating and maintaining sustainable communities.

When there are specific issues you ask these officials to act on, your advocacy role becomes that of a lobbyist. It is in this role that trustees become the personal face of the library. Although the library director and staff are also advocates of the library, political decision makers may view them as biased participants who have a personal, professional and economic stake in the library. A trustee, on the other hand, has the credibility associated with being a citizen who is voluntarily providing a community service.

Advocacy involves:

Getting to know officials at all government levels and helping them learn about the library.

Speaking out about what libraries do for the officials' constituents.

Assembling facts and translating them into action.

Planning and presenting evidence of need for a law or appropriation.

Trustees can make a difference because they:

See the library from the user's viewpoint

Have a perspective on the full range of public services

Represent a broad base of consumers

Are volunteer participants in government


As mentioned, advocacy by trustees becomes lobbying when specific issues need to be addressed. However, your role in advocating for the library to elected officials is ongoing throughout the year. Contact them on a regular basis. Invite them to special programs and ask for their input on long-range planning issues. By building relationships with officials, you can keep them informed and aware of the vital role the library plays in the community.