It is really quite simple: put yourself in their shoes.
It doesn’t seem all that hard. And it helps to explain decisions that they’ve made and decisions that they are likely to make…
Much could be written about this topic. Yet, little has been written about this topic. At least in our field…
More than a decade ago, while I was an elected municipal council member, a city manager explained that the provincial/state grant to public libraries was the last remaining grant to municipalities for direct services. He did not see how it could be continued when everything else was in the purview and finding prerogative of local government. I dutifully relayed this information to library advocacy groups, to no avail.
Ten years later when that same provincial government moved to eliminate the grant (“it is the last remaining grant to municipalities for direct services”) there was outrage in the library community and of course anti-government slogans and electioneering.
Now we learn that Louisiana is cutting all state funding for local public libraries and there is of course concern (as well there should be) and consternation (which there should not be).
It is inconceivable (at least to me) that in times of budget restraint (to say the least) that one level of government would continue to fund what is primarily a different level of government’s responsibility and which it too is funding. Where is the distinction in responsibility? Who gets the credit? (And let’s not play naïve and suggest that this should not be a criterion.)
Our response is to get on our high horse and head off “shocked and appalled”.
Maybe we would be better off to be more strategic and investigate ways that state level support might be used in ways that support local public libraries but are not funding direct service, that is, funding state/province-wide services, consortia, initiatives that only that level of government can do. This makes the distinction and makes it more difficult, albeit not impossible, to remove the funding.
Similarly, in another case, library groups have been lobbying state-level politicians to return funding to levels that existed 20 years ago. In private conversations, these politicians make it clear that they will never restore the funding as it was a different political party that made those cuts and there is no net benefit to them of restoration as the librarians will never vote for the right wing anyway… So, this party provides special project funding with the expectation that the library community will work together to make new initiatives sustainable. For all of our vaunted emphasis on collaboration and resource-sharing, however, most of these projects have died after initial funding ran its course. The libraries were essentially unwilling to support collaborative projects at the provincial/state level. This has discouraged the funder and raised questions of the libraries’ and librarians’ commitment to the common good.
We need to become better at working for the common good at a strategic level, where we can recognize the agendas and constraints of funders and find creative ways to collaborate and share in order to develop win-win propositions.