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?
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.
Recently there was a discussion on the listserv for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries about what activities are good to undertake at the end of the year. It seemed like a good topic for the YALSAblog, too, so I’ve adapted my answers to make them more focused on serving youth:
Reflecting on this year
- Send thank you notes to volunteers, supporters, and anyone who gave a helping hand or moral support.
- Do a post-mortem of your overall efforts to serve teens in 2017. What was successful? What failed and why? What will you do differently next year? For more about taking the time to reflect, read this article, Time to Reflect: why does it matter in the workplace?
- Conduct a review library policies and procedures to see if they need updating. Some useful information is on the ALA site and YALSA’s wiki.
- Conduct a review the teen pages on your school or library’s web site and social media sites to see what needs updating or improving. Check out ASCLA’s web accessibility resources. Review content and style for inclusive language, professional content versus personal beliefs, and potential sexist, discriminatory, or similarly insensitive language or images. Ensure graphics do not show people in stereotypical roles.
Right now is your opportunity to advocate for federal library funding (#saveIMLS) and speak up for teens! These “District Days” [the weeks when Congresspersons are home in their districts] are a unique opportunity to use summer programs and back to school efforts as a way for local representatives to see firsthand how libraries prepare teens for college, careers, and life.
What can you do over the next five weeks?
- Invite your local representative to your library and show them how you are serving teens. Adapt this sample invitation (.docx) from YALSA. Make sure to incorporate teen voices in the visit.
- Schedule a meeting with your representative and/or their staff in their local office. This is a great alternative for you, if you don’t work in a library (like me), if your summer programs have already wound down, or if your school library isn’t open yet. You can read on the YALSAblog about YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke’s meeting with her representative and get tips for your own meeting. You can get additional ideas for preparing for your own meeting with your representative by also exploring the resources on the District Days page on YALSA’s wiki.
- Write a letter to the editor for your local newspaper urging your members of Congress to support library funding. Even better, encourage teens to write letters or op-ed pieces about their experiences with libraries.
- Invite friends to sign up for alerts and join the fight.
While we have made progress in the fight to save federal funding for libraries, the fight is far from over. As teen advocates we must continue to engage with our elected officials and remind them why federal funding is important to libraries and the teens they serve.
Make sure to share your District Days successes and challenges on Twitter with the #act4teens hashtag. Together, we can show Congress the power of libraries to create bright futures for all teens!
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President
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.
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!
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.
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.