We Are Accessibility Advocates!

This guest post was written by Cate Loveday, Youth Services Associate at Helen Plum Memorial Library.  She will graduate in May, 2015 with her MLIS from Dominican University.  Cate recently attended the 2015 ALA Midwinter Conference in Chicago, Illinois and shares her takeaways from that learning experience.  Thank you, Cate, for sharing such a valuable message!
We are Accessibility Advocates for all of our patrons. 

Everyone who comes into the library should be able to have access to the materials and programs they need. I realize we understand this, but sometimes it can be challenging to put into the right words. 

While I was at ALA Midwinter and attended the Leadership & ALSC meeting, I was able to hear Jenna Nemec-Loise from Everyday Advocacy speak about the benefits of using VBL (Value Based Language) when talking about the services we provide. The idea around VBL is that it shifts the focus away from the program and puts emphasis on the benefits our population receives. 

As part of the session, we wrote elevator speeches that utilized VBL to make a more powerful impact. Elevator speeches help librarians with advocacy.  By using an elevator speech, we as librarians can quickly answer two big questions:

What do you do?
Why is it important?

For example instead of saying: “I lead Sensory Storytimes for children with special needs.”

I can use Value Based Language to say: “I help children of all abilities to explore stories and literacy in a way that is both appropriate and stimulating to their sensory needs so that the library becomes a more inviting place for all families.”
What a difference! This approach makes the statement more specific, giving more details to your audience and hopefully enticing them to follow up with ‘I would like to hear more about that.’ 

It is also totally empowering and makes you feel like the awesome librarian you are!

This session, though it was for all types of librarianship, really struck a chord with me when thinking about serving the Special Needs population. To create a library culture that is accessible to all patrons, advocating for the Special Needs population is a large part of our responsibility. When we are concisely able to articulate this idea to our stakeholders (co-workers, trustees, community members, etc) we begin a conversation from which amazing things can happen.

If you want to try writing your own VBL Elevator Speech, Everyday Advocacy provides a sample template to try out:

“I help_______________[your main customer group] _____________[verb]  in order to ________________[large, positive result].”

Good luck and please feel free to share your own elevator speeches in the comments!

If you would like more advocacy resources please check out Everyday Advocacy or follow Jenna Nemec-Loise on twitter @ALAJenna.