Media Relations

Media Relations Toolkit

About I Love Libraries



This section contains tips that can help you deliver your message successfully in a variety of settings.
Feel free to contact the ALA Public Awareness Office if you have questions, if you need additional briefing material or if there is an issue that you feel merits comment from ALA.

Sample Press Release

Sample press release for launch of Libraries Transform Campaign (Word doc)

Talking Points

Key Messages

  • Libraries are not just about what we have for people, but what we do for and with people.
  • Our society is at a critical juncture with regard to the changing information landscape and the skills needed to thrive in our digital world.
  • Libraries also are expanding beyond their traditional roles and providing more opportunities for community engagement and deliver new services that connect closely with patrons’ needs.
  • As the heart of the community, libraries are a resource for people of any age to find what they need to help improve their quality of life.

Changing role of libraries

  • From gardening, cooking, grant writing and PowerPoint, your library most likely offers a range of educational workshops for all tastes and needs.
  • Libraries are helping artists and inventors produce their own 3D models of artwork and future models.
  • Apply to college – libraries offer education directories, school guides and ratings and information on financial aid.
  • Get business smart – libraries offer business resource centers with information on how to start a small business, how to find a job or even how to write a good cover letter.
  • Libraries offer a variety of cultural and literacy programs ranging from author programs, book clubs to theatrical performances.
  • Library professionals facilitate individual opportunity and community progress.
  • Libraries are committed to advancing their legacy of reading and developing a digitally inclusive society.
  • Libraries of all kinds add value in five key areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and engagement.

New Technologies

  • Close to 90% of libraries offer basic digital literacy training, and a significant majority support training related to new technology devices, safe online practices and social media use.
  • Virtually all (more than 90%) libraries have adopted and provide access to e-books, and growing numbers of libraries offer scanners (63%), early learning technologies for preK learners (45%), wireless printers (40%) and tablets (21%).
  • 3D printers also continue to tick up, with more than 400 libraries providing access.
  • A vast majority of libraries also offer online homework assistance, employment resources, health resources and language learning.
  • Two-thirds of all libraries upgraded technology infrastructure in the past 24 months—including updating computers, bandwidth and electrical outlets.

Maker Spaces

  • Libraries are places of community engagement. Many libraries have developed or are developing spaces for design and activities that both teach and empower patrons.
  • The learning in these spaces varies wildly – from home bicycle repair, to using 3D printers and self-publishing equipment, to building model airplanes.
  • Maker spaces promote learning through play; have the potential to demystify science, math, technology and engineering.
  • There are a number of freestanding and school-based maker spaces nationwide, and several forward-thinking libraries have started developing them for their communities.

Academic Libraries

  • As students, faculty and staff change the way they consume information, academic libraries are also transforming to ensure success across the higher education community.
  • The contributions of academic librarians to student learning and critical thinking are more important than ever.
  • Gadget-savvy Millennials do not fully understand the complex networked information world that surrounds us.
  • The volume of information available on the Web has led some students to believe that if a resource can’t be found online, it doesn’t exist. This misconception, coupled with students’ inability to analyze online information, and plagiarism of online sources, has fueled efforts to teach information literacy skills.

Public Libraries

  • Public libraries are multi-faceted – many things to many people. They are a resource providing assistance, knowledge, entertainment and a sense of community.
  • One of the most amazing things about libraries is how they change and evolve in response to shifts in technology and people’s needs and wants.
  • Libraries still provide traditional services, but continue to change in dynamics by offering a wide array of resources – both critical (free computer and access to internet, databases and e-government, career and employment resources) and enjoyable (E-books, digital media labs, genealogy and history services, DVDs, CDs and gaming).
  • Public libraries are places of self-help and lifelong learning. They bring people and information together.

School Libraries

  • School libraries are places of opportunity.
  • School libraries are learning hubs and homework help centers where students use technology and the latest information resources, preparing them to succeed in our global, competitive economy and the ever-evolving workplace.
  • School librarians work with every student in the school, teaching them to think critically, providing the resources and support they need in school and beyond, and nurturing their creativity.
  • All students should have the benefit of trained school librarians who can guide them in learning to use and understand a wide variety of information sources.
  • Strong school library programs instill confidence in reading in multiple formats, which is fundamental to learning, personal growth and enjoyment.
  • President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, which included school libraries in a number of the provisions. ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with language that ensures “effective school libraries” is addressed in state and local plans.

Tips for Success

  • Know what media are available to you and the needs and opportunities each medium presents. Focus on those that reach your target audiences.
  • Assign one person to serve as media coordinator.
  • Get to know who covers library, education and related issues for key media. Find out what their interests are and feed them story ideas, fact sheets and articles.
  • Keep track of deadlines. For radio news, that can be several times a day. Provide information well in advance and don’t call reporters when they are working on deadline.
  • Know what’s news—and what’s not. News means there is new information. There is generally a time element involved.
  • Have articulate, "mediagenic" spokespeople.
  • Be available. Respond to all media calls promptly, even if it’s to say "I can’t talk right now."
  • Always give factual information.
  • For television, be sure to describe photo/visual opportunities for newspapers and television.

Answering Hard Questions

When speaking to reporters, groups or even your neighbors, you may be faced with challenging questions. The best way to deal with them is to anticipate and prepare answers ahead of time. Knowing the answers will help you to feel—and appear—more confident, as well as give better answers. Remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Speak simply, sincerely and with conviction.

  • Anticipate difficult questions and prepare answers ahead of time. If you know you'll be facing hostile questioning, role-play beforehand with a colleague. Answer the worst questions you can imagine. Also practice some easy ones so you won’t be caught off guard.
  • Listen. Really listen. Don’t judge. Try to identify and address the real concern, fear or issue being expressed.
  • Acknowledge. Pause to show you've given the question serious consideration. Frame your answer with a positive. For example, "You evidently have strong feelings about this" or "I respect your views, but let me give you another perspective." "We share your concern for children, but our approach is…"
  • Always answer with a positive. Don’t repeat negative or inflammatory words. Strip away the loaded words and rephrase the question.
  • Avoid speculating. A reporter may ask you a question regarding an issue outside of your scope of expertise. It is not wise to attempt to answer a question regarding an issue you are not familiar with. Rather inform the reporter that you will need to consult with other sources and get back to them.


An op-ed, or letter to the editor, is so named because it typically appears opposite (op-) the editorial (ed) page of a newspaper, but is also interpreted as “Opinion Editorial." Most op-ed pages require submissions to be limited to a word count between 500 to 750 words.

Please contact your newspaper in advance of submitting an op-ed draft to find out:

  • word limit
  • preferred method of submission (email, fax, or mail)
  • name and phone number of an editorial contact to ensure your submission arrived.


Libraries gagged by new election law ask for relief
By Sari Feldman, Detroit Free Press
The American Library Association commends Gov. Rick Snyder’s willingness to work with the Michigan Legislature to clarify language on Senate Bill 571.

Freedom to Read Under Fire as Attempts to Ban Books Continue
By Courtney Young
What would you do if you went to the library to check out a book, only to find it wasn't there? Not because it was already checked out, but because someone else disapproved of its content and had it removed from library shelves?

Advocating for School Librarians
By Barbara Stripling
As president of ALA, I advocate for all types of libraries, librarians, and library workers. We are, after all, a community. Together, we can fulfill the promise that all libraries change lives.

Op-Ed Examples by Library Type

Frame of Reference: School Libraries and the Educational Ecosystem  (Academic Library Focus)
By Jim Rettig, Change Magazine
In late 2008, federal largesse to Wall Street and a push for a second economic stimulus package spurred higher education, tourism, alternative energy, construction, and nearly every industry imaginable (including my own—libraries) to lobby for mega millions to accelerate their contribution to economic recovery. Everett Dirksen’s “a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money,” has never been truer.

My View: Why libraries matter more than ever  (Public Library Focus)
By Molly Raphael, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Molly Raphael is President of the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information for all. This week, National Library Week, the ALA spotlights the valuable contributions of our nation’s libraries and library workers.

State of America's School Libraries  (School Library Focus)
By Maureen Sullivan, Huffington Post
Providing our children with the best educational resources and empowering all our children to access, evaluate, and use information for academic and personal learning - this is the critical mission of school libraries and librarians. As an educator and president of the American Library Association (ALA), I am concerned that school administrators may not fully understand the critical role school libraries and their librarians play in fostering and academic achievement and student success in a technology-driven world.

How to Schedule and Conduct an Editorial Board Meeting

Every daily newspaper has an editorial board, which meets on a regular basis to discuss the news and choose topics and opinions for editorials. The editorial board also can endorse candidates for public office, take a stand on a variety of issues and urge voters to take a certain position.

As a citizen in the community, you can contact the editorial board and attempt to persuade it to take a position on the value of libraries in a tough economy. To do this, begin by calling your local newspaper and asking for the Editorial Board to schedule a meeting.

You may have only 10 - 15 minutes with the Editorial Board, so you need to be prepared to make a case quickly and persuasively. Use the following talking points to organize your thoughts, making sure to localize them with information specific to your own libraries and community.

Find a partner. On the day of the meeting, it is often helpful to take someone with you who is influential person in the community and can help support your position, including a library patron, Friend or an influential in your community.

Rehearse. Prior to the meeting, it is important to rehearse your presentation so that you are ready to clearly and persuasively state your position. Pay particular attention to framing your argument in terms of the public interest. Also, be aware of opposing arguments and prepare to answer them. If you bring a partner, rehearse together and determine which points each of you will make.

Be prompt, polite and respectful. Get to the meeting early and dress professionally.

The “Leave Behind.” Leave behind a concise handout, stating your case and providing examples of how your library is used in the community, including how many patrons are served annually, demographics, programs, services and their impact, etc. If you have any giveaways from your library, such as bookmarks or a poster, bring them along to remind the Board of your visit.

Thank them. Be sure to thank the Editorial Board for their time before you leave.

Developing Your Presentation


This newspaper should take a stand in defense of the community's libraries, as funding bodies at every level make drastic budget cuts. Thousands of your readers pass through our libraries each year but, without adequate support, their libraries and librarians may not be there when they need them the most.


Main Point: Today's libraries are dynamic, modern community centers for learning, information and recreation. They are centers of democracy. As information becomes the great equalizer in today's society, libraries play an increasingly critical role in leveling the playing field by providing free access to technology and information resources to everyone.

Main Point: Reducing funding to our libraries will have a disproportionate impact on those who need us most - children, students, low-income residents and senior citizens, especially in tough economic times. Shortening library hours or reducing programs and services will hurt those who have the least access to such resources outside the library. Studies show that when the economy goes down, public library use goes up. They also show school libraries staffed by professional librarians dramatically increase students' reading test scores. Without adequate funding, academic libraries will not be able to afford both the print and electronic resources required for a 21st century education.


We urge you to speak out in favor of sparing our community's libraries from budget cuts. The cost of cutting library programs is simply too high a price for our citizens to pay.

Be prepared for Questions. At the end of your presentation, please ask the editorial board if they have any questions or concerns. They may be interested in hearing about some relevant statistics or a few stories about real people who rely on the library for opportunities to learn and grow. They may cite other competing budget priorities in these hard times. Be prepared to defend libraries in that context.

After the Visit. Once at home, it’s important to follow up.

Thank them. Be sure to write a short follow-up note or email thanking the editorial board for hosting your visit. If an editorial does run, call, email or write a thank-you and encourage many in your network to write letters to the editor. Be sure to post the editorial in your library for all to see!

Be persistent. If an editorial doesn't immediately run, call the most receptive person at the next “media opportunity” - for example, two weeks before the state budget deliberations, Freedom of Information Day or National Library Week. If the Editorial Board decides not to take a position on your issue, ask them to use an op-ed written by you.

In Front of the Microphone (Radio and TV)

In order to serve as an effective radio or television spokesperson you must first understand the nature of the medium. For example voice quality and expression are critical when participating in radio interviews. Use your voice to project enthusiasm, even a smile.

Try to picture the audience and speak directly to them. Also appearance matters to television viewers. A polished appearance and presentation add to your credibility. Keeping your eyebrows raised makes you appear more open and honest. Avoid the "closed body" with arms folded, legs crossed. Keep hands in your lap, palms up so you can easily gesture. Try to speak in sound bites with succinct messages.

When dressing, avoid harsh colors like white, black, or bright red; and also patterns like pin stripes, checks, herringbone patterns or small intricate designs as they may appear to vibrate on television. Also large flashy jewelry and ornate neckties may distract viewers and should be avoided.

Rich colors such as bright blues, rust, wine or purple are flattering for most women, as are charcoal gray or brown for men. A suit and blouse with an open collar is flattering to most women.

Additional Resources

For more thorough information on working with the media, download The Library Advocates Handbook (PDF).
Here’s a sample press release to get you started.

Archived webinar: Doing Business with the Media
This archived webinar was created for participants in the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, but contains great tips for dealing with the media from expert trainer, Anne Gallagher.


About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The Association has more than 55,000 members and provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services.

About ALA's Library Champions

I Love Libraries is supported by the American Library Association’s Library Champions, corporate and foundation supporters who fund advocacy and awareness initiatives for libraries and the library profession. We consider Library Champions to be among our greatest proponents.

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