I’m getting ready to head to Washington D.C. for National Library Legislative Day on May 7 and 8. And that means more than just watching reruns of Parks and Rec and Veep! It means taking the time to prepare for the conversations we will have with representatives to advocate for libraries. You don’t have to be in Washington in May to advocate for libraries, you can call and email your representatives, too! Register via the ALA site (it’s free) and they’ll send you free resources so you can easily participate from home. Here are some great tips from a recent NLLD webinar:
Know Your Audience
Create a legislator profile for the person you are contacting. Know their committee assignments, their history on library support and funding and try to find a personal connection if you can (you both have young kids, you both went to University of Pawnee, they are the caretaker of an aging parent). Whether you are talking to your elected official or their staff, this shows that you took the time to prepare and you really care!
Know The Impact
Be ready to explain the political and economic impact libraries have on your district or state. We know our elected officials aren’t making the decisions in a vacuum, their decisions have ripple effects on other budgets and projects. Show that you know what it might cost them and what they might gain by supporting libraries. This map from IMLS shows how federal funds are used to support libraries in each state and territory.
Tell a Personal Story
Facts and figures aren’t your only argument. Tell a personal story to illustrate your point. Numbers and statistics are great if your elected official has to justify a tough choice, but stories are what stick with you. Leave them with a short personal story to move them to action.
Know Your Ask
Don’t get too broad! You probably only have a few minutes on the phone or a few paragraphs in email to get your point across. So make sure you end with a specific ask (not the top 23 things they can do to help libraries). Pick out 1 or 2 issues you want to emphasize. For NLLD, ALA will post online issue briefs that describe the key issues that are of most importance to libraries. These should be live in a week, or two at the most.
If you called the office of your Senator or Representative, follow it up with a thank you and an email with some statistics and stories you talked about. Post on social media and tag them (they love this) and write a letter to your editor (they read these!).
If you are going to meet with your elected official or their staff, make sure you have practiced what you want to say a few times. As they say on Parks and Rec “Time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge” so make sure you use that time wisely!
Join the team and register for Virtual Library Legislative Day May 7 & 8 and ALA will send you even more resources to make you a powerful advocate for libraries! And don’t forget that YALSA has ideas and resources to help you plan a great NLLD at your library!