On May 2nd, I traveled to Washington DC with YALSA President Sarah Hill and other YALSA members to participate in National Library Legislative Day. We focused our conversations on
- Preserving federal funds and support for libraries in the FY18 budget, including the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA), Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
- Keeping the Internet free and open to all by preserving existing net neutrality rules. Learn more about this issue from an earlier YALSAblog post.
Sarah and I met with Congressional staff who work for committees that are relevant to libraries, such as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. We participated in seven meetings in seven hours and here’s what we learned from this speed-dating with Congressional staff:
- Your emails, calls, Tweets and letters are working—especially your calls and letters—but we need more. Everyone we met admitted that Congress is pretty old school. So, calls and letters get more attention than social media or email. This includes letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in local newspapers. Please keep sending letters and making calls! As of May 4, only 20 Senators have signed the letter supporting federal funds for libraries in FY18. Check out this earlier YALSAblog post for sample messages and a ready to use letter to the editor (docx).
- For us to be successful in our effort to ensure federal funds and supports for libraries don’t get eliminated, we need a sustained advocacy effort from now through Sept. And, the harder we advocate earlier in the process (now), the easier it will be for us later. Read these 10+ ways you can take action and take a deep dive into all of the free advocacy tools and resources YALSA has on the web site.
- Your members of Congress want to meet with you. According to the many Congressional staffers we spoke with, the number one most effective advocacy activity you can do is meet with your member of Congress in person. They will be home in their districts May 27 – June 4, and from July 29 through Labor Day. Please schedule a meeting with them at their local office, and/or invite them or their local staff to the library to show them how you serve teens. YALSA has all sorts of free resources and tips to help you with this on the wiki.
- Members of Congress want help learning about what opportunities and funds are in their own district. For example, how many youth are served by summer programs that are funded in all or part by LSTA monies?
- Buzzwords of the day were “rural” and “” Everyone in Washington DC is talking about how to better serve rural communities. If you work in a rural area, your member of Congress wants to hear about how your library helps people there. Also, everyone is talking about infrastructure, because a bill on this issue is being developed. This is an opportunity to position libraries as an essential part of communities—part of the infrastructure needed for communities to thrive. Help your member of Congress see libraries in this context, such as how your library provides broadband access to community members.
- The e-rate, which is the program by which schools and libraries receive discounted Internet access, may be under threat. Stay tuned for developments.
Now more than ever, teens need you to speak up for libraries and ensure that the federal funds and support do not go away. Because if they do, we’ll all have fewer resources and funds to help all teens succeed in school and prepare for college careers and life. Thank you for stepping up your advocacy efforts! Together we can make the world a better place for all teens!