ADVENTURES OF A GRASSROOTS LOBBIEST
Earlier this month, more than 100 librarians and supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. for Library Legislation Day. The goal was to remind members of Congress and White House staff of the impact that library services make to education and well-being of individuals across the nation. We were also there to ask for their support for library legislative issues.
I had the privilege of being a member of the ALSC team. My partners-in-lobbying were Carolyn Brodie (ALSC President), Starr LaTronica (ALSC VP-Pres. elect) and Aimee Strittmatter (ALSC executive Director). Our mission was to inform key staffers who would be influential in drafting legislation to address the President’s early childhood initiative. Our ASK was for libraries to be specifically named in the legislation and to be included as eligible entities for applying for funds. We also spoke in support of our school librarian colleagues in asking for inclusion in the LEARN act.
So what was it like to be a lobbyist in D.C. even for a day?
I felt like I was a cast member of the West Wing! I arrived on Sunday evening, May 5. As I had never attended National Leg. Day before, I attended the Newbie Training on Monday. The amazing and inspiring Stephanie Vance aka the Advocacy Guru provided a 2 hour session on how to meet and greet and get the attention of our legislators and/or their staff. [Check out the following webinar featuring Stephanie which is available through the ALA’s Advocacy Acadamy: “The Legislative Process and You: How it Works and How to Make a Difference”]
For most of us, Tuesday was a day of briefings. We heard from Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project who summarized the findings of the recent study on Parents, Children, Libraries and Reading. We also received information on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA); the LEARN Act; and E-Rate. There were also sessions on E-Books; School Libraries and also on copyright issues.
Our ALSC team also had a strategy session with Emily Sheketoff head of the ALA Washington Office. Carolyn pealed off during the day to make a presentation to White House staff dealing the early childhood initiative. Her presentation was very well received!
Wednesday was the big day.
We trudged off to the Hart Office Building to meet with a member of Senator Harkin’s education staff. [Harkin the Chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee]. We were joined by the YALSA team who focused on STEM. Our meeting lasted about 40 minutes.
Then it was off to the Ford Office Building to meet with the Education Policy advisor for Representative George Miller (CA) ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee. We had a very lively and fruitful meeting that lasted for nearly an hour.
Our third meeting was with a professional staff member (GOP) of the House Education and Workforce Committee. It was there that we got the true flavor of the opposing forces at work in Congress. We got a cool reception at first with the preface that her bosses were in cutting mode not in expanding mode. We spent about a half hour chatting about the impact that library services and programs make on early childhood education (not just Head Start). I think that she at least left the session better informed. She volunteered that she realized the importance of early education and literacy and books as she reads Goodnight Moon to her nieces and nephews constantly and could see how important books are in their lives.!
Then it was home again for me. I hope that our conversations made an impression!
Our intrepid ALA Washington staff will take up where we left off to work tirelessly behind the scenes to persuade our national leaders to recognize and support the important role of libraries nationwide.
Penny Markey, Chair
2012=2013 ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee