District Days offer the perfect opportunity for legislative advocacy. District Days are a period of time in which Congress is out of session and members of Congress are back in their hometowns. This year, District Days begin on August 1st and end on September 5th. This would be an excellent time for library staff to show elected officials how important libraries are and even get them to visit your library. Members of Congress are always busy in Washington and don’t get many opportunities to visit their local library and really see and understand all the services that libraries provide. It is important that they know this so that they can promote legislation that is beneficial to libraries and teens. If legislators actually see and experience all that libraries do they will be more likely to take action on behalf of libraries and teens. District Days offer library staff and teen patrons the chance to inform members of Congress of their constituents’ needs and help educate them on an issue that they might not know too much about. It can also help forge a relationship with elected officials that would be instrumental in bringing the needs of libraries to the minds of members of Congress, helping them make legislative changes that can only aid teens and libraries.
There are many things library staff can do when elected officials visit during District Days. First, send your member of Congress an official letter of invitation. This way you can do everything in your power to ensure your official will visit your library. Make sure to include key information in the letter such as the date, time, location, and description of your event. It would also be advantageous for you to include an incentive to make sure your Congressperson comes. For example, you could offer your Congressperson an opportunity to meet with patrons (i.e. voters) and take photos at your library. Once you have got your elected official to agree to visit your library you could give the official a tour or allow them to observe day-to-day activities. You could also allow them to be a librarian for a day so that they could really experience firsthand what that job entails. In order to make sure the visit is most beneficial, you should also advertise extensively so that there is a big turnout at your event. This shows the Congressperson how important the library is to teens and to your community. In addition, make sure there is sufficient press coverage at the event and let the Congressperson know that there will be, offering them further incentive to go to your event.
After your successful event, make sure to send a thank you to your Congressperson. It would also be good to write a summary of the event for your library’s blog or newsletter. District Days is ideal for advocacy and it can do nothing but help teens and your library’s cause and. As we know, libraries provide invaluable services that many Americans wouldn’t have access to otherwise, such as technology, but it is very important to ensure that your Congressperson knows this so that they can do everything in their power to bring positive change and aid to your hometown library and teen patrons. For everything you need to plan a successful District Day, visit YALSA’s wiki page: http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/District_Days
–Savannah Labbe, guest blogger