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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 090-97E
Division Number: VI.
Professional Group: Management of Library Associations
Joint Meeting with: Co-sponsored by the Dutch Librarians Association
Meeting Number: 97.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   Yes

Can One Association Wear Two Hats : Membership Versus Advocacy ?

Marc Storms
VVBAD (Flemish Library Association)
Antwerp, Belgium
E-mail: ms.vvbad@innet.be


The advocacy work of library associations has received more and more attention over the last years. In his daily work, as executive director of a small library assocation in Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, the author has experienced an incompatibility between membership and advocacy work. After a briefly review of the subject of advocacy he describes 7 tension fields : advocacy versus professional development, professional versus political thinking, the social basis versus the innovation, initiate versus realise, institutions versus individuals, tasks of the staff versus tasks of the elected officers and decision making.


The subject advocacy has received more and more attention over the last years, at least in this Round Table. As far as I know the "Guidelines for the management of professional associations in the fields of archives, library and information work" - the standard book on our work published in 1989 by Unesco - advocacy is not mentioned as a separate issue, although the spirit of it is present on almost every page. But from the mid 90's the issue of advocacy was on the agenda on the IFLA meetings of the round table.

When advocacy was addressed in these lectures and discussions, it was almost exclusively on the topic itself. Nobody doubts that advocacy was an important task for every library association. I also consider advocacy as very important. But over the last years I have experienced a growing conflict, or better, an incompatibility between daily work on behalf of the members and advocacy work. I am sure that some of my reflections are biased by the real situation in which I am working. The context of my experience is a small region in Western Europe, Flanders or the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. When I am talking of advocacy I will mostly refer to the lobbying work we do with politicians in a Western social democracy constitutions for the public library sector.

1. Advocacy

I consider advocacy as the translation of professional issues for decision makers.
There are two ways of advocating : a passive one and an active one. I consider them as complementary. The passive advocacy is acting when one touches your interests, it is more waiting until something occurs and then acting.

The active one is initiating, is trying to put issues on the agenda.
The passive role of most library associations consists of the protection, the follow up, the study of the interests of the library sector.
The active could be more bottom up : be able to recognise the signals of your members and of society and present them to the decision makers

2. Tension fields - barriers

3. Conclusions

In the Flemish Library Association, we have discussed these topics. And as it with most things in life, during the discussion we raised more questions than we found answers for. But nevertheless here are some conclusions we developed :