Book lovers tend to also love libraries. But, sometimes, we can also see opportunities for improvement. We wish that the library would offer more resources, more books, more programs. Often, of course, libraries wish this, too. They may be prevented from doing everything staff can dream of because of budget constraints and limited staffing. However, the wonderful thing about libraries is that they are meant to serve the community. And that means community members get to have a voice in how the library is run. So, how can you advocate for change? Here’s a list to get you started.
You Have Purchase Suggestions
Most libraries have a form on their website or on site that you can fill out with your purchase ideas. So if you are upset that the library never seems to have the latest releases you want, you can try filling out the form. (If you don’t see a form anywhere, simply make your request at the help desk.) Most libraries will try to purchase what they can–after all, they want their materials to circulate and you’ve just suggested that this title will since someone was interested enough in it to suggest it. To increase your chances of getting what you want, keep in mind reasons your request might be denied: the material is too niche, the material is too old, the material is out-of-print, or the material is offered exclusively through a particular service like Audible or Netflix and the library is not allowed to buy it.
If you are looking for an e-book through Overdrive, Overdrive also has a “recommend” button you can use to suggest purchases. Simply type in the title of the book you want in the search bar. If it is not available, scroll down to the bottom of the page. The book title should be listed there. You click on it to recommend it. That’s it!
As a final note, Hoopla and Kanopy build their own catalogs; library staff are not in charge of purchasing for services like these. So make sure any suggestions you send in can be realistically purchased in the format you are requesting.
You Have Program Suggestions
Some libraries also have forms you can fill out to suggest programs. If yours does not, however, you can make your request in person to the appropriate department or you can send an email to that department. For example, if you think a bilingual story time would be a great idea, contact the youth services department. If you think your library should start a summer reading program for adults, contact the adult services department.
Keep in mind that many libraries may have limited staff and resources. So they want to know that if they do the work and spend the money to offer a new program, people will show up. Ideally, if you have multiple people interested in an idea, share that along with your proposal. So if you can promote the program to your parents’ group or if you intend to bring your daycare, let the library know. If your friends also want to participate in an adult summer reading program, get them to contact the library, too.
You Have Other Great Ideas
Sometimes you might have an amazing idea you think the library can implement. In this case, you have to consider who your audience is–that is, who has the ability to make the change you are suggesting. You can contact the appropriate department, the director of the library, or the library board.
The library board is typically comprised of a group of community members who set library policy and have control over their budget. Their meetings are open to the public and there should be a time set aside during the meeting for public comment. This is the place where you can suggest big, system-wide changes. Think something like going fine free. Even the library director cannot make a policy change like that without approval from the board.
Showing up in person for a big proposal will likely be more effective than dropping a note in the suggestion box. It shows that someone cares enough to show up and that they are not likely to go away if they are simply ignored. (I’m sure we have all had our emails ignored.) However, everyone has time constraints, so you can also consider email, snail mail, or social media as other ways to contact the library. Just make sure you follow up!
Have you ever contacted your library with a suggestion? What was the response? What tips do you have?