“Who Doesn’t Like Libraries?”

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.

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Meet with Your Congress Member–It’s Fun (kinda) & You can #SaveIMLS

My purpose of writing this blog post is to demonstrate that meeting with your member of Congress is easy and even a little fun!  Why do this?  Because this year is unlike any other in recent history: the White House is proposing to eliminate IMLS and with it all federal funds for libraries.  We must convince our members of Congress now that this will have devastating effects, or libraries will lose the support and funding they need to help their communities.  This is a do or die type of situation, and it calls for extraordinary measures.  The Congressional Management Foundation says that in-person meetings with elected officials are the single most effective way to educate them about your cause and persuade them to support it. If all YALSA members met with their members of Congress, that would send a compelling message that they could not ignore!

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Representing Pennsylvania Librarians at National Library Legislative Day – A Dream Come True!

Sara Huff at NLLDOn 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.

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Montana goes to Washington: Leveraging teen library stories for maximum impact!

The Montana delegation to National Library Legislative day was faced with preparing for an interesting mix of meetings: a staffer for a vacant House seat, staffers for our staunchly Republican Senator Steve Daines, and an appointment with Senator Tester himself, who demonstrates faithful library support. State Librarian Jennie Stapp prepared our delegation with facts, figures, and solid strategy. We needed something else, though. Something personal: a story.

Our advocacy training on May 1, hosted by ALA’s Washington Office, focused on how to leverage the personal story to demonstrate funding impacts and make our “ask” more personal. Our trainers and speakers suggested aligning the work we do with the areas our elected officials focus on for the most impact.

As I walked from our training to the reception at the Hart Senate building, parts and pieces of the examples I’d been mulling over all day finally coalesced in my head: I’d tell the story of twin sisters, Bridget and Fiona, who discovered robotics at the library as high school freshmen when they used Montana State Library Maker materials, purchased with LSTA/IMLS funds. Now, as juniors, they’re competing in national robotics competitions. Fiona and Bridget will graduate in 2018 and plan to stay in state for college and study engineering. I knew this story would have maximum impact for us because our hardest to reach officials are deadly interested in STEM and economic growth through tech-based industries in the state of Montana.

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The Interconnectivity of Library Advocacy

On May 1-2, a generous travel grant from YALSA allowed me to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend National Library Legislative Day and meet with congressional staff from my home state of Vermont.

Sarah Hill, Peter Langella, Jack Martin and Emily Sheketoff

When preparing for the event, I tried to imagine a world where public, academic, and school librarians engage each other more often in order to create a more unified voice in our advocacy efforts. The Vermont Department of Libraries has had to weather funding and personnel cuts over the last several years, and school districts (like the one I work in) have libraries and library staff at the top of their cut lists every budget season. My library staff was reduced from four to three at the beginning of this school year, and you can imagine how difficult it is to serve the same patron community with 25% of our team missing. Two other schools in my district made similar choices, and we are one of the highest funded school library systems in the state. While there has been some notable advocacy successes like adding language that specifically mentions certified school librarians in our state’s education quality standards and ESSA implementation plan, the losses of jobs and funding clearly mean we aren’t completely succeeding in our silos.

But attending NLLD made me realize that our disparate libraries and systems are more connected than I ever realized.

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What We Learned from a Visit to Washington DC & how You can Help

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

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).

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Why You should Care about the FCC’s Attack on Net Neutrality

In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after an outpouring of support from the public, put in place strict regulations to make sure  internet service providers (ISPs) could not do things like create fast lanes, or “throttle” online traffic.  They preserved an open internet where all traffic is treated equally online and where large corporations did not get preferential treatment over individuals or small institutions, like libraries or schools.  The American Library Association (ALA) has long been a supporter of net neutrality–keeping the Internet open and free to everyone–and has issued several statements on the topic.  Net neutrality aligns closely with libraries’ core value of providing free and open access to information for everyone.  You can learn more and keep up to date on developments from their District Dispatch blog.  This week, the Trump administration proposed rolling back those regulations with an ironically named “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, and they are now accepting public comments about the proposal.  Continue reading

Federal Library Funding Update & Next Steps

April 3rd was the deadline for Representatives in the House to sign on to ALA’s “dear appropriator” letters for two funding streams for libraries: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  In all, 146 Members of the House signed on to support IAL, and 144 Members signed on to back LSTA.  Last year, just 124 members supported IAL, and only 88 supported LSTA, so the increased support is a good sign.  Thank you to everyone who contacted their House Reps!  If you haven’t done so already, please shoot them an email or a Tweet to thank them.  Check this chart to see if your Rep signed one or both letters. Continue reading

An IMLS Overview

If you are anything like the general population you know that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) does SOMETHING with libraries (and museums) but you really have no idea what it does. We hope by now that you know that IMLS is on this year’s chopping block, per the White House’s proposed budget, but aren’t sure how it will affect you, and why it’s a big deal.

And these cuts are a Big Deal. The IMLS is fairly young, as government organizations go, having been created in 1996 by the Museum and Library Services Act (the act combined the Institute of Museum services and the Library Programs Office), and is reauthorized every 5 years, but it touches every state and US Territory in the country. IMLS now supports all libraries- public, academic, research, tribal, and special as well as every type of museum- from children’s to planetariums to history. Over 158,000 museums and libraries combined benefit from IMLS funds every year.

The majority of IMLS support to libraries is the Grants to States program. Grants to States is the biggest source of federal funding for libraries across the country. It is a bit of a misnomer, because these grants aren’t competitive or something that requires an application. Every state automatically receives funding from Grants to States based on population needs, over $150 million dollars in funds is distributed to libraries every year through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Each state receives a base amount of $680,000 and each Territory receives a base amount of $60,000, which is then matched at the state level. (To find out how your state uses LSTA funds visit the IMLS State Profile Page.)

Each state or US Territory is able to determine how they will allot these funds, and many states distribute their library portion through their State Library. These funds support a variety of library functions and operations. States use this money to fund staff at state library agencies, continuing education for library workers, Talking Books programs (books for the blind and physically handicapped), broadband internet access, programs for teens, seniors, and at-risk populations, access to databases and downloadable books, and much more. Visit your state library’s web site to learn more about all of the resources and services they have available to help you help teens.

The IMLS also supports libraries through competitive grants, research, surveys, and policy development. The IMLS works in partnership with state agencies and museums to collect data and distribute the collected information to state and federal agencies. This data is used to identify the upcoming trends in library and museum services and to identify target needs across the country. These trends are studied and policies for best practices and plans to improve them are established. Initiatives on InterLibrary Loan, staffing, library governance, collections and more are developed through these extensive surveys and research.

Without the funding from the IMLS libraries will be facing far-reaching budget and service cuts. We will see the funds for things such as the databases we depend on for research dwindle, the funds for downloadable content dry up, and our state agencies will likely lose valuable staff that support our work at the local level. Statewide library funds will effectively be halved by these measures, putting library services and libraries at risk.

How can you help?

Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/

Apply by April 10 for Funds to Attend National Library Legislative Day

Because the White House’s budget proposes eliminating all federal funds for libraries, YALSA’s Board of Directors has re-opened the travel stipend application in order to send an additional member to Washington DC to advocate for teens and libraries. The stipend, funded by Friends of YALSA, will enable one qualified recipient to receive up to $1,000 to attend ALA’s 2017 National Library Legislative Day, in Washington, DC, May 1-2, 2017. Apply online by April 10, 2017.  Applicants will be notified the week of April 17, 2017.  The Board is specifically seeking applicants from states other than Pennsylvania and Texas, as those are the two states being represented by other YALSA NLLD travel stipend winners.

-Beth Yoke

P.S. for other ways to stand up for teens and libraries, read this earlier YALSAblog post