From March-May 2013, a survey was conducted by a working group of IFLA International Leaders Programme on regional collaboration for strengthening advocacy and the profession. The 7 members of the working group from 7 countries took part in conducting the questionnaire survey. The English-language version of the questionnaire used SurveyMonkey service while the Russian-language version was put on Russian Library Association website. The questionnaires were accessible to respondents via Internet. 275 respondents used the English-language version while 25 used Russian-language version. The Russian-language responses were translated into English and added to the responses from English language respondents.
Respondents (experts) were selected and asked to take part in survey by each member of working group through their regional networks. At the end of the period, the total number of respondents was 290 from 27 countries. The most active respondents were those from the Arab countries (150) who constituted about 52% of the respondents. It is perhaps important to note that Western European countries with their rich tradition of library services were not part of this survey, which, therefore, reduces the value in making global generalizations.
The respondents were mostly experts in the field of librarianship. From the responses received, it was observed that most librarians outside Europe and the US were aware of the concept of advocacy and the issues to be addressed, however, their level of knowledge of global LIS advocacy issues and strategies being used to address these were limited. Furthermore, it was observed that advocacy issues were hardly dealt with separately but closely intertwined with other challenges in some developing countries. This could be partly the reason why some of the non-respondents did not complete the questionnaire. These strategies must be taken into account in developing a Toolkit of global relevance because the responses illustrated the diversity of understanding of the concept of advocacy by librarians around the world.
The largest group of respondents were from university libraries. This could be due to the fact that in many developing countries, university libraries are the most "advanced", often performing additional functions, sometimes even as national libraries. Consequently, the staff of these libraries usually drive library community. However, in Russia, public libraries usually take the lead.
The survey shows that only 69.7% of respondents were members of a library association. This has serious implications for membership drive for national library associations which is an important ingredient in strengthening the profession. Promoting the use of the IFLA Building Strong Library Associations Modules would be a good action point for the national library associations.
The survey also shows that only 30.7% of the libraries had a budget for advocacy . For an issue as important as advocacy that can bring about positive changes in the LIS community, it is necessary for more libraries to set aside a specific budget.
- The survey had a character of expert interview. It was a probe survey, to find out the interest to a problem and if there are existing practices to solve the problems.
- The survey showed that there was an interest by librarians from different countries to examine the problems of library advocacy. However, it was evident that there were differences in understanding the cognitive nature of advocacy-related problems. It would be highly desirable to corroborate the research findings using "soft methods of sociology” such as interviewing, focus groups and so on.
- The concept of "advocacy" has not yet become ubiquitous, and what is generally recognized by the library community as advocacy refers to all forms of social partnership and cooperation between libraries
- The most common group of partners in advocacy was between libraries. This coincides with a rating of potential, desirable partners. In second place, with a significant margin was between libraries and government agencies. It is worthy of note also that the role of professional associations was said to be essential, however, their potential value as the main organizer of the library's advocacy work was not clearly disclosed.
- Perhaps, it is pertinent to reiterate that the key issues that libraries would solve through cooperation are not so much to increase funding and other types of financial aid, but rather issues such as improving the image of libraries, attracting new readers, providing new services, capacity-building of staff and providing library-friendly legislation.
The full text of the survey analysis is available below.
Last update: 28 July 2014