On Monday and Tuesday, YALSA President Kim Patton, YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke, and I went to Washington, D.C., to represent YALSA at National Library Legislative Day. On Monday, we met with several hundred other librarians and library supporters from 49 states for some briefings from ALA’s Washington Office staff. They gave us information about the current state of appropriations and other library-related legislation. They gave us tips on talking to legislators and their staffs, and an overview of the current climate on the Hill.

The big issues included asking legislators to

1) fund the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) at $232 million, the level last authorized in December 2010;

2) preserve the Improving Literacy through School Libraries program with its own budget line and appropriate the program at its FY2010 level of $19.1 million; and

3) adjust cuts across programs equitably.

Beth, Kim, and I then went to the Department of Commerce, where we met with Gwenn Weaver and Laura Breeden of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, who are working’ with 11 other federal agencies’ on a joint project called the Digital Literacy Portal. This portal, which will go live on Friday, is meant to be a place where everyone concerned about digital literacy can connect to the’ most current resources available, collaborate, and share best practices. It’s an ambitious project, aimed at both learners and teachers of digital literacy. We talked about some of the ways YALSA and its members might be involved, including content creation, and sharing of success stories in the area of digital literacy.

Then, along with representatives of PLA, ALSC, and AASL, we met with staffers for the House Education and Workforce Committee. We talked about what libraries are doing for all ages in the areas of literacy, digital literacy, and workforce development. We also met with Steve Midgely, a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education and the Deputy Director of Educational Technology. We shared with him some of the ways YALSA and its members work with teens in the technology and education realm and he shared with us a project that he is working on called the Learning Registry, which is a social data gathering and analysis tool.

On Tuesday, Kim and representatives from ALSC, AASL, and PLA met with the Senior Education Policy Advisor for the House Education and Workforce Committee, while Beth and I met with David Grossman, the Senior Technology Policy Advisor for Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA). Rep. Eshoo has been a great supporter of library legislation, including net neutrality, and has recently introduced the “dig once” bill that would improve connectivity by requiring that any time federal roads are built, broadband conduit must be laid at the same time. We gave David some information on YALSA and gave him a resource sheet that lists our areas of expertise, reminding him that we can provide Rep. Eshoo with contacts to teens and front-line librarians for photo ops, town hall meetings, and so on. It was a great reminder to me that we should all be inviting our Congressional representatives to library events, and letting their staffs know when we are doing things like celebrating Teen Read Weekâ„¢ and Teen Tech Weekâ„¢. It’s an opportunity for them to be part of a feel-good celebration.

Finally, Beth and I , along with members of PLA, ALSC, and AASL,’ met’ with Susan Hildreth, the Director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and several of her staff.’  Susan gave us a good overview of her vision for the next four years. She emphasized that libraries and museums need to be seen as relevant, and as educational institutions, not just cultural ones. She wants to work on having libraries demonstrate their public value, showing, for example, how we help people get jobs, teach basic and digital literacy, offer spaces for public forums, and form communities. Since one of the main ways most of us interact with IMLS is through LSTA grants, we talked about making sure that we let our legislators know how cuts to IMLS directly affect their constituents.’  Many states use LSTA funds to buy databases that all libraries in their state share, for example, and others use LSTA funds for training library workers. Cuts to these programs directly affect our users, and our legislators need to know that.

In the next few weeks the ALA Washington Office will be asking ALA members to contact their members of Congress about new “Dear Colleague” letters.’  These are letters about funding for the FY12 budget for LSTA and Improving Literacy Through School Libraries.’  The FY12 budget is in the process of being developed now.’  As you know, Congress is talking about making serious budget cuts.’  We need the help of you and your library advocates to make sure library funding isn’t reduced any further.

All in all, it was an educational, exhausting, and fascinating two days. ‘ Advocacy has to have grass roots support in order to be effective, so I encourage all of you to pitch in and help out. Create and maintain those connections with local, state, and federal officials—both elected and appointed. The more they know about the good work we do with teens and libraries, the more likely they are to support funding for libraries. Subscribe to YALSA’s new YA advocacy email list where you can get advocacy news and share ideas.’  Participate in the free webinars the Washington Office offers. See YALSA’s wiki for lots of great resources on advocating for teens and libraries. Even better, get your teens involved in advocating for libraries!’  Thanks to all of you who Tweeted your Senator for National Library Legislative Day and thanks in advance for your continued advocacy efforts!

Sarah Flowers, YALSA President-Elect

About Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers is a YALSA Past President and former Deputy County Librarian for the Santa Clara County (CA) Library. Currently she does writing and speaking on topics related to teen services and teaches online courses for California's Infopeople Project.

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