Tammy Young, NCSLMA Advocacy Committee Chair, shares her experience from this year's Library Legislative Day.
As the Advocacy Chair for NCLSMA, I have stepped waaaaaaaaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone. When I volunteered for this position I was intimidated a bit by the responsibility required of me in “speaking for NCSLMA”.
My first opportunity came when the NC Library Association (NCLA) invited me to join the NC delegation’s trip to Washington, DC May 9 and 10 to participate in ALA’s “Library Legislative Day”. NCLA has coordinated a group for the past several years and I was very excited to be able to travel and network with these colleagues.
The journey began on the morning of Monday, May 9 when the “western” delegates met in Greensboro to board the chartered coach and head toward Washington with a stop in Henderson, NC to pick up the “eastern” delegates. Among this group were public library directors and branch managers, library board members, NCLA leadership, academic librarians, a county commissioner and Mary Boone, our state librarian. It was a boisterous group of 27 advocates lead by the energetic Carol Walters, Director of Libraries Sandhill Regional Library System.
During the ride to Washington, the delegates were given information and key talking points regarding the state of NC libraries to utilize in our legislative discussions. Information packets with statistics were distributed on Tuesday to the NC legislators and their staff –including among the multicolored and informative papers, flash drives with video presentations that put faces and places with the numbers. One piece of advice I’ve heard over and over is the importance of showing the “transformative power of libraries” not simply statistics, when advocating for our patrons, programs and personnel.
The NC delegation focused on three key points: fund Federal initiatives including the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, support school libraries through Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and assure stabilization of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) and simplify the E-rate discount program.
We arrived in Washington in time to drop in at the ALA reception and meet other delegates. The NC delegation received an award for the largest number of delegates of all states represented.
Day 2 began with an early AM departure to Washington where we began the day by meeting Celia Sims, a staffer of Senator Burr. Delegates from 2010 were very enthusiastic about reconnecting with Celia due the previous year’s meeting resulted in Senator Burr co-sponsoring the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, which provides expanded authority to the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote and ensure library and information services, and reauthorizes appropriations for and programs under the Library Services and Technology Act.
The entire group then moved to Senator Hagan’s office where we met with her staffers and we gave testimonials about the importance of libraries to all North Carolinians. To cover as much ground as possible, the large group divided into two groups and thanks to prearranged meeting times, we met with House members and/or staffers. I along with the other western delegates met with Rep. McHenry’s staffer Krista Stafford, Rep. Myrick’s staffer Andy Polk, Rep. Foxx, Rep. Shuler’s staffer Erin Georges, Rep. Coble and Rep. Kissell. The eastern delegates met with Rep. Miller’s staffer Brandy Dillingham, Rep. Ellmers’ staffer Josh Babb, Rep. Price’s staffer Laura Thrift, Rep. McIntyre’s staffer Alyssa Dack and Rep. Butterfield’s staffer Meredith Morgan. During each conversation we shared stories of the value and importance to maintaining and/or improving library funding and staffing.
While it was thrilling to meet personally with several representatives, we were told by veteran advocates that the staffers are often the best “pipeline” to our elected officials. These staffers can ensure the legislator continues to focus on library needs and concerns. Rep. Kissell (District 8), a former educator, asked pointed questions and expressed his support of educators. The group met on the Senate steps to have our photo made with Senator Burr and present him with a certificate of appreciation for his past support of NC libraries.
Following a quick lunch at Union Station the group boarded our coach for the ride back to Henderson then Greensboro, very tired but feeling like our presence “planted a seed” with NC’s federal representatives (and their staffers). Personal thank you notes were written to each staff member and/or representative in an effort to help keep our concerns “front and center”.
If you are in Washington or Raleigh during a break from school, drop in and allow your representatives and/or their staffers to hear from you how much libraries mean to you and your patrons. I would encourage you to remember your local, state and federal elected officials and issue a “blanket” invitation to visit your library next time they are available (or nearby)! Check out this link to "District Days" -- an opportunity to take advantage of legislators summer break http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/District_Days.
Please let us know your plans to advocate for libraries with legislators by posting to the Facebook NCSLMA discussion and following up with photos from your events.