Many of you participated in the opal Advocacy workshop John Thompson and I co-hosted last fall. Among other topics in that workshop, we talked about the many important reasons there are to be active and involved in your local Chamber of Commerce.
First and foremost, a community is only as strong as its leaders. The Chamber is where community leaders and decision-makers network, gather information, and form opinions. Creating a relationship with these influential people makes our libraries more real and, in turn, they are more apt to be patrons and advocates. Showing up at events, introducing ourselves, getting involved - even if it is only a little- allows us to be leaders, too. When fellow members see our face, we want them to say, "Hey, there is our librarian Mary. She sure is nice. I saw her at a Chamber event the other day and I couldn't believe all of the programs they've got going on at the library! I took my kid there on Sunday." There. Not only did we encourage patronage, we have started a library buzz.
Second, the Chamber provides a collective voice to and with our elected officials. We need to be a part of making decisions that affect our libraries. Be present to help committees make informed decisions. Don't forget to be supportive of other community programs and services that could become great partners.
Last, but certainly not least, Chamber involvement is an excellent platform to promote our fabulous programs and services. These professionals, and their families, are valuable patrons. Word of mouth remains the best form of advertising, and what better place to start than from the mouth of an enthusiastic library director!
I am very proud to be actively involved in the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce as an Annual Meeting Committee Member, Leadership Eau Claire Curriculum Committee Member, and Media Day Co-Chair. Each meeting and event gives me an opportunity to be an advocate for our libraries. Whether it is talking about the increasing demands on libraries within dwindling budgets or the latest bestseller, it is an opportunity to bring awareness and start the conversation. Lead it.