Advocacy 101

Time To Talk Library With Your Officials

For almost 20 years Kate Robinson has been a lobbyist for Connecticut nonprofits.

“I represent an army of people in every community in the state,” Robinson said.

Now “we’re in the worst economic situation we’ve ever been in in my career” with a budget deficit forecast at $1.5 billion. It’s a very stressful time for all, she said.

In 2017 the state government will set a budget for the next two years. In 2016 the General Assembly had to revise budgets down because of the economy. The state had asked every agency to cut its budget request by 10 percent.

This is how it works: In mid-fall agencies submit budget requests to the Office of Policy and management. In late fall the governor and that office devise a budget request to submit to the General Assembly on Feb. 8.

The appropriations committee hears testimony for agencies Feb. 13-24. Then the finance and appropriations committees have to reconcile what agencies want with the money available.

That’s the “room where it happens,” Robinson said, referring to a song from the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Spring is the crucial time for Friends to speak up for their libraries. “Everyone is going to be fighting for survival,” she said.

The Connecticut Library Association will be organizing people to testify before the appropriations committee. But even if you aren’t the one addressing the committee, you can support libraries by just going to the hearing when the issue of libraries comes up. If everyone dresses in the same color — in 2015 time red was chosen — it shows a visual presence.

You can also call or meet your local legislators and advocate for libraries. Friends could organize a meeting at their library with a group of patrons to discuss funding.

In this past election, 33 new people were elected.

“It’s important that you reach out to these freshmen,” Robinson said. Get to know them and their priorities.

“Don’t get nervous about meeting with them,” she said. “Legislators are people, too!”

Congratulate them for winning their election. Follow up by meeting with them in their district or at the State Capitol. Introduce yourself and wear a nametag.

Find out what you have in common with your legislator — sports team you both follow, a school you both attended, a book you both like. These elected officials represent you so you need to build a relationship with them.

Make sure they know that libraries provide core services to their communities and help solve local problems. Quote facts — the number of items borrowed, the number of computer hours, the programs for the elderly, for children. If they ask you a question that you can’t answer, tell them you can get that for them later.

If you can’t talk with your elected official, speak to her aide. If you call and get a recording, leave a nice message and ask for them to call back, Robinson said. Expect them to do so.

In addition to the Friends, ask any community groups that use your library to speak with an elected official on your behalf. Write letters to newspapers because that’s what your local legislators are reading.

Friend your legislators on Facebook. If they are featured in a news story, cut it out and send it to them with a note because personal notes matter.

“Just because we’re good at what we can do doesn’t mean we’re going to get all that we need,” she said.

One Friend from Granby, Jane Reardon, said she also talks with legislators on behalf of the American Lung Association.

“One thing they coach us on is to present only one fact (per meeting),” she said, “but also tell a personal story.”

Don’t forget your local elected officials, said Frank Ridley, president of FOCL and the Meriden Friends group.

“Once you develop that relationship you can build on it,” he said. “I meet regularly for coffee with local and state legislators.”

2016 Fall Conference

The Annual FOCL Conference will be held at Central Connecticut State University on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

Registration Form
Conference Fact Sheet

This theme is Membership. There will also be an important presentation on the out year State budget and how it can impact our libraries

10 Steps to Grow Your Friends Group

Today, there are many challenges in creating and maintaining an active group of dedicated volunteers. While finding the right people is the first step, you need to do more to cultivate and help your group flourish. Learn ten tips and best practices that will help you recruit and engage members and grow a strong and vibrant Friends Group.

Presenter, Deb Hoadley is Owner, Consultant & Trainer for Hoadley Consulting. Her primary library focus centers on strategic planning, leadership, advocacy, community building, engagement, customer service and resource sharing. She is the President of the New England Library Association. Hoadley has presented at numerous local, state and regional conferences

Advocacy 101: What to do while the State budget crisis continues

Kate Robinson, CLA’s principal lobbyist, will present an analysis of the last Legislative Session and the trends we face in the coming few years. How should library stakeholders craft advocacy programs during years when resources are meager and unpredictable? What should we do to keep libraries in the picture while legislators deal with competing needs and dwindling revenue? How can every library contribute to our advocacy efforts?

Kate Robinson is a partner of Gallo and Robinson LLC which advocates for the non- profit community. Kate has lobbied on issue relating to education, housing and mental health

Friends Membership in CT 2016

Having an active membership is vital to success of our Friends groups. Therefore, every 3 or 4 years, FOCL conducts a survey of the member groups to check on their health and vitality. Carl Nawrocki will present the results of the survey and discuss trends and changes since the last survey in 2012. The presentation will be followed an open discussion of membership.

Carl Nawrocki has been involved with Friends groups at the local and state level for over 25 years. He served as president of FOCL for four years and is the current Program Chair.

Experimenting with Square Up

A number of Friends groups has been using Square Up to accept credit card payments at their Used Book Sales. They have reported an increase in the volume of books sold and thus the use of this device is of interest to all. After the formal part of the conference, a number of Square Up users will make themselves available to give demonstrations and answer questions.

Registration Cut-off Date: postmarked no later than November 11,2016
Questions: Carl Nawrocki at or 860-859-1641

Registration Form
Conference Fact Sheet

2016 Annual Meeting & Awards Ceremony

The Friends of Connecticut Libraries Annual Meeting & Awards Ceremony
Saturday, June 11, 2016
9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Middlesex Community Collage
100 Training Hill Road
Middletown, CT, 06457
Chapman Hall, 2nd Floor

Admission is free, however you must register.
View Registration Form

The will be a short business meeting including the election of Officers and Board members and followed by the annual awards ceremony This year’s winners include Friends groups from Ashford, Groton(Bill Memorial), Meriden, Milford and Mystic-Noank and Southbury.

Our featured speaker is author Sally Allen who will speak about her recent book, “Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers”. Sally will sign her books after the program (books will be available for purchase).

The program will conclude with our famous Tea Cup Raffle and networking,

Questions? Call Carl Nawrocki at 860 859-1641 or email

About Our Speaker

Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own. In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.


If you believe in the value of your library, you need to advocate for it. That could mean going to a rally like the one last year at the State Capitol.

But it also means speaking up for your library whenever you get a chance, whether at your town council meeting, to your friends and family, or at your business.

“If you don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for you,” said Libby Post of the firm Communications Services of Albany, N.Y.

Libby PostThat was her message at an advocacy workshop Jan. 20 at the South Windsor Library. It was one of six free workshops she offered library Friends, staff, trustees and the public. Four workshops have already been held and two more are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27 — 10 a.m. to noon at the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield and 2 to 4 p.m. at the Easton Public Library.

Back up your support with statistics, which you can get from your library or the Connecticut State Library at

Funding is always the issue, Post said, but people need to start thinking in terms of how much money their libraries save them. Circulation staff could put a dollar amount to each person’s check out — 5 DVDs or books are saving that patron $100.

Libraries serve two-thirds of the public using less than 2% of all tax dollars. And every year their budgets are cut.

But, “we can no longer afford to do more with less,” she said. Many school libraries have closed so students depend even more on public libraries.

A Pew Research study showed “people love their libraries even more for what they say about their communities than for how libraries met their personal needs,” Post said “What would it say about your community if you let your library close?”

The Pew study said that 90% of Americans, age 16 and older, say closing their local library would impact their communities and 63% said it would have a mayor impact. And 18- to 34-year olds are the fastest growing number of library users, she said. They use the library to find out if what they read online is true.

“Libraries give people a tremendous chance to succeed, and people say they realize that,” Post said.
Libraries have a great reputation for customer service and can build on that to advocate. Staff should want to because it’s their salaries on the line.

People who have extensive economic, social, technological and cultural resources are most likely to use and value libraries. Library supporters need to target the others — people who don’t use technology, don’t have pride in their community and are less likely to take part in cultural activities.

Libraries need to make sure the public knows of all they offer, including doing this through their websites and other social media.

Does your library partner with the schools? Serve veterans and immigrants? Help local businesses and job seekers? Teach technology including the latest things such as 3-D printers? Let people know.
Once you have gathered facts about your library, you need to get them out to the public and elected officials, Post said. Start by figuring out who in your community are the leaders. Officials will expect to hear from your library board but what about the head of the Rotary, the hospital president, the chamber of commerce?

“Reach out to groups [and invite them to] use your meeting rooms,” she said. “And while they’re there, talk about information you might have on their subject in the library.”

If you have Little League sign-up at your library, have a display on baseball books, maybe even buy a sign at the ball diamond. That way you might be reaching people who haven’t been using your library and turning them into supporters.

“Volunteer messengers not directly affiliated with the library can be more powerful,” Post said.
If you are doing a campaign for an issue, whether it be to expand or whatever, she said it’s important to have a strong, clear message. “Giving away bookmarks [with a few facts about your issue] at the circulation desk is one of the most potent ways of reaching people,” she said.

Get officials to come to libraries when there are a lot of people there, maybe a kick-off to summer reading. And once you give your pitch to people, don’t just say, “I hope you’ll support us.” Instead ask, “Will you support us on this?”

Don’t apologize that libraries need funding. In many towns, they are part of the government. They are as essential to a community as schools, health care and the police.

Appeal to emotions when you sell your library. Post said one library she worked for used a successful grandma campaign, saying such things as: “Grandma says everyone has to pay their fines.” “Grandma says you can renew your books by phone.” “Grandma says be responsible about what you view online.”

Counter any claims made by anti-tax people with facts about how libraries are essential, both for the items they provide and the space they offer.

You can bring advocacy to your library, Post said, using these steps:

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed
  2. Have a plan
  3. Determine your brand
  4. Be bold
  5. Be clear and concise
  6. Look at other successful libraries

Friends Encouraged To Talk Up Their Libraries With Officials

Friends groups can support their libraries by more ways than financially. They can also support them by talking with officials about what the library means for their communities.

Libraries “set the community spirit for a town,” said Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague. Osten spoke at the Friends of Connecticut Libraries Fall Conference in November at Central Connecticut State University.

Real estate agents will tell you that if a library is dingy, it isn’t inviting for someone considering moving to town.

“When you ask them why people move there, what attracts people, the library is always mentioned as a key asset,” she said.

Her local library in Sprague came up with a booklet, using statistics available from the state, to explain how many people use the library and for what reasons.

“It’s not just that repository (of books) but used for job searching,” she said. It’s where senior citizens and Girl Scouts often meet, where middle-schoolers hang out and where she often meets with constituents.

As the first selectwoman of Sprague, Osten is also in charge of local funding for her local library.

She said they got more than $1 million from a variety of funds to renovate an old grist mill that houses the library, which included installing an elevator.

Talk to your state legislators and let them know that you, as a constituent, want them to support libraries. Tell them why your library is important and deserves more funding. But keep your message short.

“Don’t write long emails to people because they won’t be read,” Osten said. Instead use simple bullet points and get to the message.

Contact people in different ways — one-on-one, at a public meeting, at some board meeting. You can’t expect others to do this.

“If you want your library saved in the state budget, you need to be active. You can’t just let lobbyists do it,” she said.

“Usually it takes twice or three times to get people to respond to you.”
In response to a question about the most effective way to get legislators’ attention, Osten said the

worst time is in the middle of a crisis. The upcoming special legislation session from February to May won’t allow much time.

You could band together with people from nearby towns and meet with two or three legislators at the same time. Or host a breakfast for your legislators to come talk with constituents and hand them a one-page report with your key points.

One area vital to small town libraries is borrowing items from other libraries. It gives them access to books they might never be able to see without it. The state funds this service.

Advocacy training for Friends groups is available from the state, said Dawn LaValle, director of library development for Connecticut.

“We already know how well (libraries) serve our community,” LaValle said. “We just need to get the word out.”

Another place to find out how to help is a free online course called “Library Advocacy Unshushed,” said a Friend from Canterbury. He found it on by searching for the word “library.”

The size of your group doesn’t matter, Osten said. Just present your message in a clear and concise way to show the value of your library.