Advocacy and Political Participation Policy

Policy Purpose

This policy provides guidance for Hamilton Public Library (HPL) staff and the Library Board in respect to advocacy and participation in elections and political parties.  

Key Points Summary

  • Intellectual freedom is a core HPL value and our role is to facilitate the expression of a wide range of ideas. 

  • HPL will actively work with the broader library community and key associations to advocate to higher levels of government for policies beneficial to our mandate and funding that lessens the funding burden on the City of Hamilton. 

  • HPL will advocate locally for broad support from Council by actively engaging with all Councillors and avoiding activities during election season that could be seen as favouring a specific candidate. 

  • HPL will make it a priority to encourage democratic participation and awareness in non-partisan ways. 

  • HPL needs to ensure we preserve the public’s trust in us as an independent organization by being careful to avoid the perception of bias or partnership. 

Policy Details

Guidance for Staff 

Promoting Democratic Awareness and Participation 

The Library Board encourages staff to support non-partisan activities that encourage political participation and voter awareness. Approved activities include things like the following:  

  • Using library space to serve as polling stations. 

  • Using library space for non-partisan voter registration tables. 

  • Using library space to host all candidates’ meetings. 

  • Using library space to host programs and discussions about relevant current issues. 

Approval for using the library space or website for non-partisan activities requires approval of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). 

Maintaining Public Trust and Independence 

The Library Board requires staff to refrain from activities that could erode our position of trust and independence. The Library will not support, endorse, or advocate the viewpoints or beliefs of any one candidate, political party, partisan organization or group. The following activities are not permitted: 

  • The posting or distribution of partisan election or campaign material in or around Library facilities or on the website. 

  • Renting library space for partisan events, election or campaign activities. 

  • While at work staff will not wear anything that promotes a specific issue, candidate or party. They will not post, distribute or promote any election candidate, issue or party while on library property. 

Guidance for Library Board Members 

Advocating on Behalf of Libraries  

Public Libraries, like the Hamilton Public Library, provide tremendous value and play an essential role in promoting literacy and the love of reading. Libraries help individuals overcome barriers that limit their ability to participate in the economy and in society. Advocating and promoting public libraries and HPL is an important role for all staff and Board members. While advocacy is important, it is also critical that these efforts are done in a thoughtful way that strengthens the depth and breadth of support for libraries over the long term. Some key points around advocacy: 

  • The goal of advocacy is to promote awareness of the impact and value of public libraries. Our efforts in Hamilton are naturally focused on the impact and value HPL has on our community. 

  • HPL has a long history of nurturing the broadest support possible. In the process of advocating for HPL, we will focus on the positive merits of our value and avoid criticism of individuals not sharing our perspective. 

  • Where appropriate, HPL will participate in advocacy efforts with provincial and national library organizations. We will partner with the library community to support independent research that improves and deepens our understanding about the impact of libraries and the best practices to achieve that impact. 

  • The timing and nature of our advocacy will be considered to avoid the appearance that we are endorsing a specific candidate or political party.   

  • In general, HPL’s formal advocacy efforts will focus on issues that are related to our mission as a public library. For example, efforts to influence the Ontario and Canadian governments will focus on funding or legislation that impact public libraries or libraries in general. This, however, does not in any way preclude HPL from participating in or supporting awareness campaigns on issues consistent with our values of respect and inclusion, or, in general, support of issues related to health and wellness and democratic participation.  

The Chair is the official spokesperson for the Library Board. Only the Chair may represent and speak for the Board in an official capacity to outside parties in announcing Board-stated positions and in stating Chair decisions. (from Board By-Laws).  

All Board members are encouraged to promote the value of the Hamilton Public Library and its impact on the community. This is done by: 

  • Sharing stories and relevant information about library programs, services and impact. 

  • Sharing information about the Board’s values, vision and strategic plans. 

  • Being an excellent ambassador for HPL and advocating consistent with this policy. 

  • When requested, assisting the Board Chair in officially representing HPL at meetings or other events. 

  • Respecting the confidentiality appropriate to issues of a sensitive nature and understand that it is the Chair’s role to represent and speak on behalf of the Board. 

  • If contacted by the media, coordinate with the Board Chair and Chief Librarian/CEO to ensure appropriate information is shared. Because of their roles, the Board Chair and Chief Librarian/CEO are responsible for responding to media inquiries. This role is often delegated to others, but the delegation requires the approval of the Board Chair or Chief Librarian/CEO. 

Guidance for Chief Librarian and Library Management Team 

The Chief Librarian/CEO speaks on behalf of HPL in matters relating to the operation and procedures of HPL and may speak on behalf of the Board in cooperation with the chair of the Board. 

  • The Chief Librarian/CEO identifies and maintains effective relationships with appropriate stakeholders such as other libraries, universities, research organizations, governments, agencies, businesses, media, non-governmental organizations, community leaders and related institutions on a provincial, national and international scale (from Chief Librarian role description). 

  • The Chief Librarian/CEO is responsible for ensuring procedures are in place to support effective coordination with media. 

  • The Chief Librarian/CEO will work with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and the Management Team to ensure advocacy strategies are developed and implemented.   

  • The Chief Librarian/CEO will periodically report to the Library Board on the status of advocacy efforts and priorities.  

Publish Date

October 2014, December 2016, February 2020, May 2024