Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NYLA Information and Advocacy Session

This past Thursday, June 17th 2010, the NY Librarians Meetup Group met for the New York Library Association Information and Advocacy Session at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The session was moderated by Tinamarie Vella, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism employee, NYLA and NYLM member. NYLA is an organization that is dedicated to the mission of “development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning, quality of life, and equal opportunity for all New Yorkers.” Its mission for library advocacy is to “ensure equitable access to the highest quality library and information services by speaking as the chief advocate for the people of New York; and to promote the visibility and use of libraries and the essential role of library service and information providers.”

Meetup members were greeted warmly by NYLM Organizer and session leader, Stephanie Gross, who started off the session with identifying various contributing factors to the potential decline in financial support to NYC libraries. She pointed out that professional networking needed strengthening in numbers and participation. She suggested that through the power of increased participaction, such groups could more effectively communicate with each other and the necessary governmental parties on how to better serve community libraries. Additionally, Stephanie noted that library advocacy groups need to identify libraries' strengths and weaknesses-- then decide on the best course of action to maintain those strengths and eradicate those weaknesses. If they do not, City Council will soon vote on a proposed budget cut of $37 million dollars, the largest library cut in the history of the city. Libraries will no longer receive the funds necessary to adequately serve their communities. As a result, branches will be closed, jobs will be cut, librarians will be out of work and communities will go underserved.

During the session, one NYLM member remarked that alternatives to public librarianship would have to be sought out for unemployed librarians. She explained to fellow session participants that she was currently searching outside the public library arena to obtain work. Stephanie followed up the member's story by discussing her own experiences in being an academic librarian as opposed to a public librarian. A second NYLM member‘s story about her work as a law librarian seemed to emphasize a need for librarians, in general, to really fight for job security— especially in the face of economic downturn. Other NYLM members who said they were currently seeking employment in libraries, discussed the need in gaining important skill sets in order to obtain and maintain a library position. However, these looming budget cuts are illustrating for many hoping to become librarians that the desire to learn more about the profession may become overshadowed by an even greater need to stay afloat financially.

It was suggested, although only briefly discussed, that the Computer Age is playing a signifigant role in proposals to decrease spending on libraries; perhaps because libraries are becoming less focused on real live service to library patrons and more so on making information accessible to patrons via the World Wide Web. Though also worth mentioning, I think that librarians on the whole are becoming increasingly more fearful of what an emphasis on technology rather than actual person to person service could mean for their professional future. These proposed budget cuts by library administrators are, perhaps in many ways, a wake-up call to NYC library employees and patrons forcing them to recognize what is important to the continuance of the privileges they enjoy. Moreover, these impending budget cuts are making libraries and library patrons realize just how vital advocacy is to the survival of NYC libraries.

The session concluded with handouts, created by Tinamarie, being passed around to all attendees. The handouts provided information on NYLA and how to join the association, so that a greater presence could be brought to the group’s outreach and advocacy efforts in the NYC area. The second handout provided information on a few simple ways to get involved in library advocacy for libraries located in and beyond the NYC area.

For more information regarding NYLA, please visit their website at: http://www.nyla.org/

Additionally, take the Save NYC Libraries’ “Rally Challenge” by clicking on the following link: http://savenyclibraries.org/. Use the Rally in a Box kit, which will give you the tools and guidance needed to hold your own library rally.

To receive a copy of the handouts described above or to give suggestions on how NYLA can increase interest and participation in library advocacy for NYC, please contact Tinamarie Vella at: tinamarie.vella@gmail.com

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