Earlier this month, library advocates from across the country converged on Capitol Hill for National Library Legislative Day. This year, the Public Awareness Committee (PAC) was pleased to have their new Information Sheet included in legislator packets.
Today, we have super-library-advocate, Amy Koester, with us to talk about how she used the new information sheet at this year’s NLLD.
Hi, Amy! Thanks for answering a few questions about the PAC information sheet! First off, how was the information sheet used at NLLD?
The toolkit information was used in the Illinois delegation packets as an informational leave-behind piece that conveyed to Illinois elected officials and their staffs the vital impact and value of youth librarians. The three official “asks” for NLLD 2018, which are set by ALA, were a) asking Senators to reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act; b) asking members of both the House and Senate to fully fund LSTA and IAL for FY2019; and c) asking all elected officials to visit a library to see broadband access in action. These three asks took up the majority of the speaking time in each meeting, but the ALSC one-pager was included as a leave-behind piece to give greater context to the work of libraries in particular with regard to working with children.
What part of the toolkit was most helpful?
The inclusion of some brief Because statements really helped to equip members of the delegation to have some ready-to-go, impactful talking points to convey to legislators if and when they brought up issues related to children. Most members of the Illinois delegation are not youth librarians by trade, so the one-pager helped those less familiar with youth library work to be prepared to advocate for the work we do. The statistical data shared also helped give some good context to youth librarianship, both to share with legislators but also to help non-youth librarians have a deeper understanding of the work their youth colleagues do.
What resource/statistic/data point(s) do you wish you had on it?
This isn’t necessarily a specific thing to add on a ready-to-go document like this one, but it would be great to have a document with a space for adding local data and/or stories. Elected officials are most concerned with the experiences of their constituents, so while having national aggregate data is a great start, some of the data points could be more impactful if the library using the document were able to customize and localize some of the data points. To that end, it could be helpful to have a template for including core data points (e.g., how many public libraries in your district? free and reduced lunch stats for your district or state? etc.) as well as tips on where folks can get that data. That way libraries who want to use this one-pager template when they talk to elected officials can a) find data relevant to the official’s district and b) add that data to the template for a more specific document.
What advice would you give to the aspiring (or new) everyday advocate about how to use this information sheet in their regular, everyday advocacy interactions with fellow staff, community members, and other stakeholders?
This document is a great tool for talking to other librarians about the work that youth librarians do every day. There are still lots of librarians who don’t see youth librarianship as the vital community service that it is–we are so much more than “just reading books to kids.” Having some data-supported talking points to advocate for the real and important work of youth librarians serving children and their families is a tremendous tool. Lots of these statements and data points are also excellent for sharing with community partners and stakeholders. While more and more people in our communities are learning just how robust the services libraries offer for families are, there are still really pervasive stereotypes and oversimplifications of the work that youth librarians do that can dominate conversation. Being able to support the narratives about all the great work we do with Because statements and data points equips us to make compelling arguments about the vital work youth librarians do in their communities. And ultimately, the more community members who understand the full spectrum of services the library offers for kids and families, the greater impact we can have.
Anything else you’d like to say about the information sheet?
The one-pager is really lovely, and that definitely helps capture attention of anyone receiving the document. At NLLD, many legislators are receiving packets of information–that’s a lot to comb through and process. Having an appealing document like the one the Public Awareness Committee has created makes it all the more likely that an official or their aide will see the document, pick it up, and take in the information.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your experience using the PAC Information Sheet! PAC hopes this can continue to be a resource that is valuable and easy to use for all the Everyday Advocates out there. Have any thoughts on how PAC could make this resource even more helpful for you in your local community? Feel free to post in the comments below!
Skye Corey, Youth Services Librarian at Meridian Library District (ID), is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.