There Are No Silver Bullets – Advocacy in the Real World

Glenn Miller, PLA – Advocacy in the Real World

“There are no silver bullets” – demystify the process.

Corn maze – ‘how appropriate’ for advocacy. Has experience with elected officials since 1995, when interviewed.

Success in PA – ‘in this generation’ but not recently. Long-term process and important to engage in it constantly. “Stick to it.”

Hand out – copy it and post! Good stuff. What are the factors that make the wheels of politics turn…


  • Merits of the Issue – pros/cons, why, stories, what difference does it make?, we rely on the merits of the issue to carry the day – our downfall! “Doesn’t work that way” A factor, but not where we ‘hang our hats’. Fall into a trap!
  • Party Politics, Elections and Money – Money moves the political process – it’s the system we have. Timing of elections, campaign funding and/or public money spent in a way that puts a candidate in a positive light. “Will this decision affect campaign fundraising. 2014 Governor’s Election – important year for the state and Library advocacy. All State House election and ½ State Senate. Understand timing of the advocacy and understand the partisan breakdown. Every Gov. has been re-elected since 1968. This Gov. poll numbers are not strong, but he’ll probably still get re-elected (hard to beat the incumbent). Rep. Senate, House and Gov. Senate could flip Democratic.
  • Political Implications of a Vote or Decision – Greatest potential to make change. How might a vote affect my standing in the community? Possible Negative implications want to be known by candidate.
  • Personal Relationships – “Do I know this person asking for support?” If you have a relationship with local Senator – and that person knows what library services mean and what the blowback would be…those could be important factors. Local personal relationships = harder to say no and disappoint! If you us come in and make the case once a year, then it’s easy for the politician to ignore you and your ask. Find out who they are and who knows them! Take time to build relationships – you must start now. Get on their radar. Invite them to visit the library, put their info on web site, in newsletter, join them at public events, attend the town meeting they put on with our Board and Friends, and communicate with them outside the library context 24/7. May take a few times before they remember you and come across a restaurant to say “Hi.”

TO DO – reconnect with Murtz and meet other local officials. Make sure he comes back this fall and we advertise it!

Politicians are People, too, Driven by Human Nature:

Remember: They are just like us (maybe with a bit more ego) – think of them like human beings, just like us.

  • Be Nice – “You catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” “Piece of my mind” approach doesn’t work long-term! Be respectful, nice, and polite.
  • Getting to Know You – easier to listen to friends than stranger. Get to know them. (Empathy). Make it hard for them to say “no” to you, a friend.
  • Show and Tell – Not substitute for first-hand experience. Get them into the library to help with story hour, adult programming, etc. Tactile experience, first-hand, one-on-one.
  • Keep it Simple – longer the message, the shorter the attention span. Don’t overwhelm with data and stats. (Use stories). They have a lot on their plate, we are one small sliver. Deliver a sharp and short message.
  • Surprise Them – Reach out when you want nothing in return. Example, “Fireman’s picnic.” Make a positive impression – and out of context of the library or legislative day. Tell them what’s going on, invite them to visit, “there are a million stories in the naked city, this is just one.” We are all in the same community – make them aware of what we do (so they start to think about the political implications). PA Forward = all about help us develop personal relationships (tomorrow @ 10:30 am) 35 partners in PA Forward, including Bankers and Hospital association!
  • Mouth and Ears – communication is a 2-way street. Nancy ?? said, “We have to learn to listen brilliantly.” Don’t be so focused on process and fear and script – engage in a conversation instead. Make a mistake, it’s fine. More important to be a real person and engage.

The Three PR’s:

  • Personal Relationships
  • Political Repercussions
  • Persistence and Respect


Q&A – Tips for building relationship with someone for whom you have disdain (joke) – Glenn has a lot of respect for people who are willing to run for office in the first place. You have compromise and understand there will be opposing points of view. Remember they are human beings. “We’ve always done better with library funding under Republican administrations.” (Pre 2010, but may be different era now.)


How do we respond to Indiana-type blowback to library funding? Long-term struggle, PA Forward helps and is being used by Indiana. Reality is that for every $1 invested, there is a $55 return on investment (facts on web site from 2006). Personal relationships and persistence are IMPORTANT.


How do you persuade Board members to relationship-build at local and state level? They KNOW them personally, but won’t speak on behalf of the Library. 1. Why are they on the Board?? (frustrating) They serve on the Board but don’t see the value of the service? (Then they need to be educated. Do we need to give them talking points?) “Local is the most powerful level of advocacy. Bumping into your Commissioner is more common.” Story about converting a Mayor by inviting him to get involved in storytime over a 12-year campaign of winning him over!


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