Strengthening Library Ecosystems: Collaborate for Advocacy and Impact

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors

As more libraries face attacks on core values such as access and intellectual freedom, this adaptable resource demonstrates a variety of methods library workers can use to kindle and strengthen legislative and public awareness advocacy efforts with colleagues from across library types and geographic areas.

A patron of one library is the potential patron of any other library at a different time of life or location. And though each library serves its own unique community, when different kinds of libraries speak together with one voice, the entire library ecosystem is stronger. Distilling the work of ALA's Ecosystem Task Force, this book will guide library organizations in assessing and extending the strength of their ecosystems by identifying priorities for advocacy and legislation. Its flexible framework can apply to the library ecosystem at any level and can accommodate all types of libraries and library organizations, including Friends groups and trustees, vendors, and literacy groups. In this book, readers will

  • learn what constitutes a library ecosystem and how diverse libraries can unite around common goals and values;
  • see the ways in which various library types (school, public, and academic) overlap in mission, share the same core values, and can better view each another as essential allies;
  • be introduced to the elements of ecosystem thinking, including components such as effective leadership, communication, collaboration, and sustainability for advocacy success;
  • come to understand how to apply ecosystem ideas to bolster legislative advocacy and combat censorship attempts;
  • grasp the contrasts between “going it alone,” which can devolve into fragmented messaging and unfocused action at cross-purposes with other libraries, and speaking together with One Voice, as illustrated through real-world examples and case studies; and
  • get an assortment of practical tip sheets, discussion questions, points to consider, and other helpful prompts and guideposts for setting out on their own ecosystem journey.



Part I              The Ecosystem Foundation

Chapter 1        What Is a Library Ecosystem?

Chapter 2        Uniting Around Core Values and Common Goals

Part II              Elements of Ecosystem Thinking

Chapter 3        Understanding the Four Pillars of the Continuum

Chapter 4        Ecosystem Leadership: Beginning, Building, and Sustaining

Chapter 5        Progress Requires Strong Communication

Chapter 6        Collaboration Builds Success

Chapter 7        Sustaining Your Advocacy Ecosystem

Part III           Applying Ecosystem Ideas

Chapter 8        Advocacy: Leading from Life

Chapter 9        Leveraging the Ecosystem for Effective Legislative Advocacy

Chapter 10      Library Ecosystem Warriors Stand Together for Intellectual Freedom

Part IV           Many Kinds of Library Advocates

Chapter 11      Academic Libraries Need the Library Ecosystem

Chapter 12      School Libraries Are Pillars in Library Ecosystems

Chapter 13      Public Libraries Reach Everyone

Chapter 14      Potential Partners in Library Ecosystems

Chapter 15      Diverse Advocates Championing Libraries

Chapter 16      Library Ecosystem Leadership at the State Level

Part V: Ecosystems in Action

Chapter 17      Five Ecosystem Journeys

Chapter 18      The Myth of Going It Alone

Conclusion      One Voice, One Future


  • Appendix A    The Ecosystem Agenda Building Templates
  • Appendix B     State and Local Year-Round Advocacy Checklist 
  • Appendix C     A Comparison of Public, School, and Academic Libraries: Vital to Our Communities
  • Appendix D    Additional Resources

About the Authors


Dorcas Hand

Dorcas Hand, MLS, is a retired school librarian from Houston, Texas, who is a co-chair of Students Need Libraries in Houston ISD, a grassroots advocacy effort to return school librarians and libraries to all campuses in Houston Independent School District; this local advocacy work has informed much of her ecosystem thinking. She chaired the ALA Ecosystem Initiative Task Force to write the Ecosystem Toolkit and Continuum and remains a member of ALA’s COLA Ecosystem Subcommittee, presenting on ecosystem topics often.

Sara Kelly Johns

Sara Kelly Johns, an online instructor at the Syracuse University iSchool and a long-time school librarian, is a past president of AASL, the New York Library Association (NYLA), and the Section of School Librarians of NYLA. She received the NYLA Lifetime Achievement Award and the first AASL Social Media Superstar Advocacy Ambassador Award. Active in ALA Council and ALA committees, Johns was a member of the Implementation Task Force for the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. She has written articles for several school library publications and contributed chapters for various books.

Michelle Robertson

Michelle Robertson, MLIS, PhD, is currently the program coordinator and assistant professor for library media in education at the University of Central Oklahoma. She is a member of ALA’s Ecosystem Subcommittee as well as ALA’s Public Awareness Committee. She has worked for several years to build the library ecosystem in Oklahoma. Collaboration to build awareness of library services across library communities is her passion.

Eryn Duffee

Eryn Duffee, MLIS, is a teacher librarian near Seattle, Washington, who has led advocacy committees and who founded the Tennessee Library Ecosystem Coalition. Eryn’s impactful work earned Tennessee the Gerald Hodges Intellectual Freedom Chapter Award. Recognized with the Library Journal Movers & Shakers Award in 2023, Eryn is currently on a mission to give Washington state students equitable access to certified teacher-librarians.