On July 21, Forbes magazine published a piece on its website called “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money,” which was written by contributor Panos Mourdoukoutas, Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University. The piece was removed from their site today, but you can read it here. The author’s reasoning behind shuttering the nation’s 17,000+ public libraries and replacing them with Amazon bookstores was narrowly focused on his perception that libraries are just about two things: stuff and places. Mourdoukoutas manages to overlook the oodles of reasons why libraries are vital, including but not limited to their role in defending free speech, protecting the privacy of users, supporting lifelong learning, and creating an informed citizenry who can participate in the democratic process. But perhaps what is most disturbing about his suggestion is that he completely ignores the fact that there are millions of Americans living in poverty who cannot afford to purchase books and other materials, and who do not have access in their homes to current digital tools or high speed Internet.
I became a certified school librarian in 2006. I spent my early years teaching in school libraries learning the job, honing my craft, attending professional development and reading copious amounts of children’s and young adult literature. The ongoing pursuit of these efforts was to improve my instructional practice, to get better and to grow as a librarian.
I spent countless hours reviewing journal articles about literacy, reading comprehension and instructional strategies. I read online posts from other librarians, reading teachers and classroom teachers. I studied best practices around research and inquiry. I pored over information literacy standards, reading standards and technology standards. I lurked on Twitter and compiled lists of relevant educational and library hashtags. I began posting some of my own educational content. I began teaching professional development coursework and presenting to my peers in-district and at conferences.
Last week, Beth Yoke and I traveled to Washington DC to participate in National Library Legislative Day – a two–day advocacy event that brings hundreds of librarians, library supporters, and patrons to Washington, D.C. to meet with their members of Congress and to rally support for library issues and policies. This year, the ALA Washington Office asked NLLD attendees to focus conversations with their Congressional representatives and their staffs on three key issues:
- Reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act
- Full funding for the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL),for FY 2019
- Inviting representatives and their staff to visit their local libraries to see broadband access in action.
On Monday, after a full day of advocacy training, Beth and I attended a reception on Capitol Hill. Among the speakers were four teens who had been selected as the 2017 North Carolina Library Association Student Ambassadors. The teens spoke powerfully about how libraries have impacted their lives:
Libraries have personally impacted me in so many ways, including the opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and gain service and leadership skills. Alizdair Sebastien Ray
The library is a place where you can forget about reality and be present in the moment, where you can meet new people and develop new interests through the diverse programs it offers. Angelina Bayrak
It’s the perfect place to contemplate how we should handle our situations. Christina Haley Williams
One of the teens, Sam Kostiuk, created a video to share his experiences with libraries. Click here to view it.
In addition to attending ALA events, on Tuesday and Wednesday Beth and I met with representatives from the Department of Education (with AASL & ALSC), IMLS, the Afterschool Alliance, and the American Youth Policy Forum. Beth also met with the National Center for Cultural Competence. These meetings were productive and Beth has already begun to follow up on our conversations.
Thanks to all of the YALSA members who participated in NLLD either in person, virtually, or by coordinating events in their communities. Your advocacy efforts make a difference!
While participating in NLLD is important, we know that for libraries to be successful in our efforts to ensure federal funds and support for libraries, we need sustained, year round advocacy efforts. 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.
Make sure to also reach out to your members of Congress during District Days – the time when they are back in their home districts. Invite them to come for a visit to the library and show them how you serve teens. Schedule a meeting with them at their local office to strengthen relations. YALSA has all sorts of free resources and tips to help you with this on the wiki.
Consider involving teens in your advocacy efforts like the NC Library Association did! Visit the Youth Activism through Community Engagement wiki page for resources to help you and the teens you work with engage with their communities and advocate for issues like funding for libraries.
By stepping up our advocacy efforts we can help make the world a better place for all teens!
YALSA President 2017-2018
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! Continue reading
National Library Legislative Day is one month away. Are you ready for it?
On May 8, library staff and advocates from around the country will descend upon Capitol Hill to speak with our legislators about the impact of libraries on the communities and teens we serve. We are the experts on library services for and with teens and our legislators want to learn from us!
Most of us cannot make it to Washington DC, but do not fret! You can participate in National Library Legislative Day in a variety of ways. Some members will meet with state and local legislators at state capitols, city halls, county seats, and on our home library turf. Others will engage with legislators through email and social media. You can (and are encouraged to) get teens and other library users involved too.
Successful advocacy happens year-round, but a concerted effort, like that on National Library Legislation Day, amplifies advocate voices. If you’ve never participated in Library advocacy before, National Library Legislation Day is a great time to start. If you are an advocacy-pro, set the example for our less-seasoned advocates. We would also love to hear from you and share your advocacy success stories and tips.
Anyone can participate in National Library Legislative Day, and YALSA has the tools to support you.
Here some quick start steps.
- Let ALA know you are participating. Don’t forget that anyone can participate! You do not need to travel to Washington DC.
- Check out YALSA’s National Library Legislation Day tools.
- Select which way(s) you will engage in advocacy on and around May 8.
- Tell your professional and personal networks what you’re up to. Encourage them to join you!
- Keep the momentum going! District Days are right around the corner and your local, state, and national legislators want and need to hear from you year-round.
What will I be doing on National Library Legislative Day? I’ll be engaging in advocacy at the most local level. May 8 also happens to be an election day in Ohio and I’m taking the day off of work to campaign at the polls in support of our local public library’s levy issue.
Comment below to let us know how you plan to celebrate and advocate on National Library Legislative Day!
Jennifer Korn is the manager of the Pleasant Ridge Branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
In March ALA asked advocates to contact their Rep in the House to support library funding. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn! ALA is circulating one letter in support of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and one for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. ALA is also maintaining a list of Senators who have signed. Please take a moment to find out if your Senator has signed, and email their office via this quick form if not. You can also Tweet or call. Then help spread the word by encouraging others to do the same! It’s important that this a large, grassroots effort–Congress is only moved to action when they are inundated with calls, emails, Tweets, etc. from voters like you.
For other simple ways you can take action to support libraries and teens, read this earlier blog post. And follow the action on social media via #FundLibraries. Thank you!
P.S. Stay up to date on federal funds for libraries via ALA’s District Dispatch blog
We are coming up on the deadline for Congressional Representatives to sign this year’s letters in support of federal library funding. As you probably know, the White House budget for the coming fiscal year removed all federal funds for libraries, so it’s up to us to tell Congress to put the funds back in. Right now, one letter is circulating in support of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and one for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.
As an update, we currently have 84 signatures on LSTA, and 49 for IAL. Last year, we were able to get over 140 signatures for both letters. We can do it again, but we need your help!
With the deadline coming up – March 19th! – I’d like to ask your help in getting the word out about this campaign. ALA is maintaining a list of Reps who have signed at ala.org/fundlibraries. Please take a moment today to find out if your Rep has signed, and email their office via this quick form if not. You can also Tweet or call. And then help us spread the word by encouraging others to do the same! If they have signed, send them a quick thanks.
P.S. Stay up to date on federal funds for libraries via ALA’s District Dispatch blog
Recently I made my way up to New York’s Capitol Building in Albany to “storm the castle” if you will with my fellow New York Library advocates. Every year, library workers and supporters travel caravan style from all over the state to share why libraries are important. We are at the ready with stats, numbers, stories, and anything else that can show our local representatives why we are essential to our communities and how we need them to stick up for our budget. Of course this is New York budget and only one day a year. While it is indeed powerful to see a building full of library supporters chanting “We! Love! Libraries!” in matching hats and hearing stories from representatives about how libraries have changed their lives this is only one rally in one state on one day, what can we do the other 364 days of the year?
The proposed White House budget for FY19 that was released February 12, 2018 calls for eliminating federal funds for libraries and the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), the only federal agency charged with providing support to the nation’s hundreds of thousands of libraries and museums. Now it’s up to Congress to decide whether or not they want to change that. ALA and YALSA need your help to ensure that IMLS and federal funds for libraries are saved, because without libraries teens will not have the resources and support they need to succeed in school and prepare for college, careers, and life. Here’s what you can do right now:
- Send an email or Tweet to your members of Congress. ALA has ready-to-use messages waiting for you in their Action Center.
- Sign up via the ALA site to receive action alerts so you can easily email or call the offices of your Congress members at critical times during the budget process between now and Sept.
- Read and subscribe to District Dispatch, the ALA Washington Office’s blog, to stay up to date on the issues.
- Encourage your library users to share their stories about what their local library means to them. ALA will use these with their advocacy efforts. Direct patrons to this quick and easy form.
- Brush up on your advocacy knowledge and skills by checking out the resources on ALA’s shiny, new ala.org/fund-libraries site and YALSA’s web site.
- Sign up to participate in National Library Legislative Day on May 8, online, at your library, or in Washington DC, and check out YALSA’s NLLD resources.
- Connect with your members of Congress when they’re in their home districts to keep them informed about the many ways the library helps community members. Congress is typically not in session the week of a national holiday, like Presidents’ Day. Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library. YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
- Join YALSA, or make a donation, because together we’re stronger. YALSA’s the only national organization that focuses its support and advocacy on teen library services. Dues start at $63 per year. Your support will build our capacity to advocate for teens and libraries.
- Encourage your patrons, advocates groups, friends, family, and colleagues to do the above as well.
Don’t know much about IMLS? Here’s a quick overview: through IMLS, every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories receive funding to support their state or territory’s libraries and museums. In FY17 the total funding IMLS distributed to states and territories was $156,103,000. In addition, IMLS offers competitive grant opportunities that individual libraries and museums can apply for. In FY17 they awarded competitive grants to libraries and library-supporting institutions totaling more than $27,469,000. Visit the IMLS site to see how much funding your state receives from them.
Want to take further action to support teens and libraries? We salute you! Check out the free online resources we have to make speaking up for teens and libraries easy.
Each year the federal budgeting process kicks off when the White House releases a draft budget. This will happen sometime in February, and there’s talk that the FY19 draft budget may be released on February 12, 2018. If you recall last year, the White House’s draft budget called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as well as all of the federally earmarked funds that the nation’s libraries depend on to provide critical services to their community. However, a grassroots advocacy effort led Congress to keep funding for IMLS and libraries for FY18.