On Monday, May 1st and 2nd 2017, National Library Legislative Day took place in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of librarians and library workers from all over the country represented their state’s delegation at this event. Thanks to YALSA, I was one of the lucky librarians able to attend.
I grew up with my local public library being a very big part of my life. My mother took me to storytimes as a child, I volunteered there during my summer breaks in high school and college, and I was even employed there right after I graduated college. I know first-hand the importance of public libraries. With the recent threats to library funding, it is now crucial for library workers and library-users to show their support for libraries.
Several months ago I read about an award available to first-time NLLD attendees on YALSA’s website. I knew immediately that I wanted to apply for this award. I currently am employed as the Teen Librarian at William Jeanes Memorial Library, a public library outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County. I work with teens on a daily basis, and I see how public libraries have impacted them. From providing books, programming, and a place to hang out after school, public libraries can have an incredible influence on teens. I was ecstatic when I got the email telling me that I had been one of the few selected to receive the award to attend National Library Legislative Day in our nation’s capital.
On Monday, May 1st, I met up with the rest of Pennsylvania’s delegation. It was one of the biggest delegations Pennsylvania has ever seen! There were library staff from neighboring Bucks County, as well as those from the other side of the state. Thought we all came from different backgrounds, education, and libraries, we all had the same mission: to talk to our legislators about libraries and why it is critical, now more than ever, to support IMLS funding.
Monday was full of inspiring and eye-opening advocacy training. Throughout the whole day, I felt a combination of excitement and nervousness. I was learning how to effectively articulate the concerns of librarians to the legislator’s aides, who we would be meeting with the following day, but how would I be when I actually got into the room with them? I was scared that I would freeze up and forget everything that I wanted to say.
On Tuesday, May 2nd, I joined two other members of my delegation to Congressman Charles Dent’s office, where we met with his Senior Legislative Assistant. Since this was my first time meeting with a legislator’s aide, I decided to observe my colleagues and soak in how they approached topics with the aide. It was an incredible eye-opening experience. I learned a lot by just sitting there, listening to my co-delegates.
Later that day I met alone with Congressman Brendan Boyle’s Legislative Assistant. As a constituent of his, I was more familiar with Congressman Boyle – his history, legislation that he had voted (or not voted) for, and his love of libraries. He often visits his hometown library for town halls and healthcare sign-up events. He understands the importance of public libraries, and it was a lovely experience to be able to thank his aide for his continuing support of libraries.
My final meeting of the day with Senator Bob Casey’s Legislative Assistant. Almost the entire Pennsylvania delegation met with him to discuss our concerns and over President Trump’s recent proposal to completely cut all federal funding for libraries and eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). It as a powerful moment- a room full of librarians, meeting with the direct aide to one of our state’s senators. We left that room feeling incredibly empowered and hopeful. Though we were nervous and scared for the proposed cut to all IMLS funding, we also knew that we had several members of Congress who stood behind libraries and library workers, and we knew that they would continue to fight for us and the work we do.
I am overwhelmed by the generosity of YALSA’s award. I never would have been able to afford to attend National Library Legislative Day without this stipend. I am incredibly proud and honored to have been chosen for this award, and I will forever cherish the experience.
Sara Huff is the Teen Librarian at William Jeanes Memorial Library and Nicholas and Athena Karabots Center for Learning in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. She graduated with her Master of Library Science from Clarion University in December of 2016. A lifelong user and lover of libraries, she is proud to call herself a Librarian.