Probably strange timing to write a post about this given the results from local elections across the country today, not to mention the AV debacle built as it was on the most outrageous lying I think we have ever witnessed in any kind of campaign for votes. But anyway, I kinda got to thinking of late why I do what I do. Why I’m involved in campaigning for libraries and why I am so passionate about it.
I think the reflection has come about due to a recent break from involvement in the Voices for the Library campaign due to a number of personal issues that have required my attention. That two week break gave me a chance to think about my involvement in the campaign and reflect on the things that we have achieved so far. I was helped through this period of reflection by a number of information professionals telling me how great they think the campaign is and how they are actually quite proud to be able to say that they know me and, by extension, one of the founders of VftL. They did not know that I was having a break at this point, but their words were immaculately timed.
So why do I do it and how do I find the time (another question often asked of me)? Well, I’ve been pretty much engaged in online campaigning for several years now, long before my involvement in VftL. For a few years I kept a somewhat political blog that I used to promote certain campaigns I felt passionate about. Everything from Guantanamo to Palestine to modern day slavery. I think it is fair to say that my campaigning was fairly scatter-gun and admittedly ineffectual. Sure, it probably reached a small handful of people, but I very much doubt it changed anyone’s minds or had any impact at all of any note. I like to tell myself those evening locked in my spare room were worthwhile but, well, that’s probably not the case.
I stopped keeping this blog some time ago as I became increasingly involved in what was going on in the library world. As a result, my evenings spent blogging about various political issues of the day was pushed to one side and I became more and more focused on public libraries in particular. And I guess that is where VftL came in. I was excited about the prospect of being involved in a campaign I believed passionately in and that might even be able to achieve something. No more tapping away on my own at the computer at night hoping that someone somewhere might take notice of my crazed rantings (not that they were crazed I can assure you!). This was a chance to achieve something.
So now, instead of blogging about various fringe issues that mattered to me but not a whole bunch of other people, now I am involved in a campaign that a lot of people are very passionate about. From library users to library staff, there are a great many people who care a great deal about the wonders of the public library service. A great many people who feel like they are under attack and have been pushed onto the backfoot. And, for some of those people, VftL has provided a voice and a platform to shout about why libraries are important and why they should be protected at any cost. That is something that makes me very proud. It is also something that keeps me going at times when I am feeling that I have given all that I can give. When I needed a break to deal with my personal issues, it was this that made me determined to come back and not cut off my ties for good. Sure, it has its moments, but if it wasn’t this I would be campaigning about something else. Far better to campaign on something that could deliver results than something that will be largely ignored (no matter how important I think those issues are – and believe me, I think they are very important. Catch me in a one-to-one conversation and you will know it!).
I have recently finished a book by Susan George called ‘Whose Crisis, Whose Future?’ – a fascinating read and one that I can heartily recommend. At the end of the book, George reflects on how she responds to the question ‘what keeps you going?’. She writes:
“I know that I cannot predict or know today, or probably ever, what may be the impact of my actions. They may have none at all. One can make every effort not to leave the world as one found it and still have no guarantee of success. This is why I do not answer the recurrent question ‘Are you optimistic or pessimistic.
“…I prefer the world of reason, sense and possibility and to recognise that I might write something or reach someone with an idea; I might act or inspire others to take action of their own. I might be the crucial, though insignificant grain of sand that causes the system to reset in a pattern at once safer, greener, fairer, more humane and more civilized.
“So might you.”
That, for me anyway, sums up why I have been doing what I have been doing for the past six years and why I have an urge to do something. It is that that keeps me going more than anything else when I am feeling tired of arguing and fighting. You just never know if someone, somewhere, may just change their mind as a result of something you have said or written. And I guess when it comes down to it that is all we can hope for. I know that I’m not going to change the world (I stopped thinking that a couple of years ago!), but if I can change one person’s mind then that makes it worthwhile. And if it is a councillor who changes their mind, then all the better. Although, perhaps I won’t hold my breath on that.