With the arrival of springtime and National Library Week comes the annual tradition of Library Legislative Day. Teams of librarians and supporters will descend on Washington D.C. on May 6 and 7, 2013, to speak to members of Congress and national policymakers. Across the country during the spring, library supporters will visit state capitols and local legislative offices to speak to state legislators and policy makers to educate and/or remind them of the importance of libraries in their communities.
Who is more prepared to give passionate, persuasive and impactful testimony to the important role of libraries in the promotion of learning, literacy and information than children’s librarians? You know and can articulate why libraries are so important to the education and quality of life for children and families and ALL members of the community. You see the impact of your work daily. Ah, the stories you can tell!
Become a part of the process. Speak with your library director and contact your State Library to find out how you can participate. Volunteer to become a member of a Library Legislative Day team. You will be given training or at least a mentor to show you the ropes. The process is generally well orchestrated and you will most likely be supplied with topics and talking points.
Be ready to share outcomes. Gather data that demonstrates how your library makes an impact on your community and come equipped with stories about how individuals or groups in your community have benefitted from library services.
Talk about the importance of libraries through out our lifetime – from early childhood and throughout adulthood. Be prepared to talk about how school and public libraries must work together to support our children’s education. Remind legislators how the library plays an important role in bridging the digital divide and how librarians continue to be information brokers gathering data from both print and electronic sources.
No doubt about it, participating in Legislative Day can be a bit daunting the first time, but it provides enormous satisfaction and a great service to the profession. Take the plunge! After that first time – it is not so intimidating!
But don’t forget advocacy and providing positive library experiences for your legislators and policy makers can happen any time during the year. Make sure that you invite them (along with their staff members) to your library to attend programs, to participate in library activities, to tell stories, etc. Ongoing communication makes it a breeze when you schedule a visit during Legislative Day!
Penny Markey, Chair
2012-2013 ALSC Legislation Committee