This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.
In my sector (academic libraries), I think the most important kind of advocacy work involves demonstrating value for money and outreach.
Although the squeeze on library budgets is an issue (and probably one that will never go away), I think a more urgent problem is that many library users do not understand the connection between access to electronic resources and the fact that these are (1) subscription resources and (2) they are paid for by the library.
What many library users see is a reduction in print periodicals (and maybe books too) and conclude that libraries must not need as much money if they are buying fewer periodical titles.
Improvements in access (e.g. IP authentication, sign sign-on login) mean that many users don’t realise that when they go to a platform such as ScienceDirect on a campus PC, they have just passed through a paywall to a resource they only have access to because the library has paid for it.
Features like this on subscription sites are helping to raise awareness:
(so much for the contributions of Oxford’s college libraries but there’s a topic for another time…)
And library staff do a lot of work behind the scenes to keep this access live and help people learn how to use these resources.
So although the role of libraries in academia is not under threat in my institution, the roles they play and how their money is spent is changing from things you can see and count easily to more invisible things like electronic access and teaching information skills. Advocacy has a key role to play in educating people about how academic libraries are changing and demonstrating the value of their more intangible, invisible products.