Washington, D.C. is a dream location for librarians: books, libraries, galleries, museums, history, monuments, culture, and food. At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in National Library Legislative Day along with over 500 other librarians. My trip was funded by a generous travel stipend from the Young Adult Library Services Association. Although I have been a librarian for 23 years and have advocated for libraries in my school district and community, this was my first opportunity to advocate on the national level. I am hopeful that my experience will encourage you to become a national advocate as well.
Alex Simons, Liaison Librarian at the University of Houston, is the Texas coordinator for NLLD. She and Letitia Smith from YALSA prepared me for the visits on Capitol Hill by sending information about library advocacy and about how to conduct successful meetings with Members of Congress. In addition to Alex Simons, the other members of the Texas delegation were Jeanne Standley, Executive Director of Libraries at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Carlyn Gray, retired Director of Library Services at Round Rock ISD and currently Librarian at Austin Community College. Gloria Meraz, Assistant State Librarian at Texas State Library and Archives, attended as a resource person and was instrumental in providing information on the impact of federal funds for Texas libraries and the Texas State Library.
This event is exceptionally well-planned and organized. ALA hosts NLLD events and training for registered participants at a local hotel on Monday and plans office visits on Tuesday. Folders with information about important library issues are prepared for each of the 435 Representative’s offices and 100 Senator’s offices. The Texas delegation generally meets on Sunday night to divide up visits, and Monday they arrive early at the House office buildings. With current threats to eliminate funding for critical federal library programs, the folders were filled with data showing how libraries truly do change lives. Alex Simons suggested that we focus on a maximum of three issues to clarify at each office to get the most out of our time during visits. Armed with our data and our stories, we hit the halls.