By now it is likely you’ve heard about â€œDistrict Daysâ€ and discovered we’re not talking about Hunger Games programming. If you haven’t heard, though, here’s what you’ve missed and how you can get involved!
District Days are the days when our representatives in Congress are in recess and return to their home districts–where their constituents live! This is a great time to act for teens in libraries! How will our representatives know libraries are important if we don’t tell them? In the digital age, who would even think about teens needing libraries? Now is the best time to let your congressional representatives know that teens do need libraries and they use them, too!
This year District Days run from August 4th through September 9th, which means there is still plenty of time to get the word out. Where do you begin, though? You can visit the YALSA District Days website for ideas at http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/District_Days. You can also find information there on why District Days are important, tips on getting an elected official to come to your library, and links to information and handouts you can share with your representatives. Looking for ideas on what to do other than handouts? Search the YALSA blog for â€œDistrict Daysâ€ or â€œAdvocacyâ€ and get ideas right here! Or look to the wiki and see what others have done successfully. Be sure to share your successes with others, too!
Finding your representatives is easy. Just visit http://capwiz.com/ala/home/ and enter your zip code in the box toward the lower right screen. Be sure to enter your library’s zip code so you get in touch with the right representative!
Don’t feel discouraged if your representatives can’t come for a visit, or if you are unable to make it down to their office for one of your own. The beautiful thing about District Days is that they happen every year, and even a phone call can make a difference.
Tomorrow begins an almost month long homecoming for our elected representatives, let’s welcome them home while encouraging our patrons to get to know their representatives and empowering them with the information they need to advocate for the library and all the things we do for our teens.
Of course the best option would be to bring your local representative to your library for a public event but if you can’t do that why not bring the library to your representative? Contact your representative’s local office and inform the office staff that you work at the local library and are putting together information display about district days in an effort to encourage patrons to get to know their representatives and take part in advocating for the library. Ask for a schedule of the representative’s District Days public appearances and if there is anything specifically the representative would be interested in hearing about from the library patrons.
Prepare your display with information about what District Days is, why it’s important, and the different ways they can get involved to advocate for their library. Utilized the YALSA District Days Wiki to help get started. Provide local statistics on teen services in the library, the importance of library services to the community and the different ways to contact their representatives including their schedule of events.
Or better yet, provide your patrons with pre-addressed stamped postcards inviting them to write a quick note to their politician about why the library is important to them.’ A postcard shower of library advocacy!
Well, District Days are nearly here.’ ‘ We’ve been talking about the event for a while and now it’s time to take action.’ ‘ District Days (August 8-September 5) provides us with the opportunity to set appointments and meet with elected officials to not only discuss our concerns but to also praise our achievements. ‘ Make at a town hall meeting, schedule’ meetings with staff members or invite elected officials to a library event.
Before you schedule your appointment take a look at ALA’s page on “Capitol Hill Basics“.’ ‘ ‘ Prepare what you’re going to say in advance and remember that sharing personal experiences work great to get your point across.
ALA and YALSA both have many resources at your disposal to assist you with preparing talking points and finding supporting materials.
We have been blogging all week about District Days starting next week. District Days are when legislators return to their home states and is a great time to schedule a meeting with them to advocate for your library. Check this site for more information, or read previous blog posts about District Days. If you haven’t heard, Legislators really like to hear personal stories to go along with our pleas for library support. So how do you get those personal stories? Here’s a few ideas I’ve had:
1. Thank you notes. I have received a few thank you notes from co-workers and one from some patrons for a program that I did. These are fantastic ways to show personal stories. If you don’t have any of your own, talk to a Children’s Librarian, they will probably have several. Those nice handwritten ones with the’ shaky kids writing are too memorable not to use. Scour your email looking for those thank you’s from teens or parents or co-workers.
2. Photos. A picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Who doesn’t have several pictures lying around of teens having a BLAST at a program? Bring some pictures with you to show how much your teens enjoy being in your library. Show off what a great place your library is.
3. “Why I Need My Library” contest. These are great stories from teens across the nation about how important their libraries are to them. Did you start and not quite finish your video with your teens? Finish it for your Senator. Did you mean to do this and just didn’t have the time? Do it for District Days (and get a head start for next year!) Put it on a digital camera that you can bring with you, burn a copy onto a cd to leave with them, create bookmarks with URLs to the video for the whole office.
4. Ask for a story. You know the library has made a real difference for this person, and their story would really hit home about why libraries are important. So ask them to help. Ask them to visit your senator with you, or ask them if you can share their story. Ask them to write it down, or if you can video tape it, or something like that. It doesn’t hurt to ask, all they can do is say no. Ask someone to be an advocate for libraries, in even just a small way by sharing their story with you so you can share it with someone else.
Some of these are small ideas, easy to implement. And you just might be surprised by how much you find when you start looking. Other ideas are bigger, but here’s a place to start. We’d love to hear your ideas for how to get personal stories too. These are a great way to help our legislators connect with the people they serve and see how important these resources are.
District Days offers us the opportunity to meet with our elected officials (or a staff member) to discuss our passion: libraries. Check your representative’s web site or call their office (read this first) to find out what opportunities they offer to connect with constituents during District Days from August 8-September 5.’ Your representative might host town hall meetings, assign staff members to meet with constituents or be willing to visit your library. Whatever form of contact you can make, prepare your points ahead of time to make the most of everyone’s time.
Fortunately, ALA and YALSA offer a variety of tools to get informed and create talking points in a snap.
- Get familiar with current pending congressional legislation and your state’s legislation here. It makes a world of difference to arrive prepared to speak on something specific and relevant such as pending legislation.
- If broadband and internet connectivity support are important to you, check out this excellent tool for preparing state-by-state reports on this issue.’ You can generate statistical reports, including comparative data.
- Connect with your state to find out which issues are most crucial, how to contact your reps, and connect with other librarians in your states to advocate together here.
- Don’t forget to thank your representative for supporting libraries! You can research what legislation they have supported by checking out their web sites or searching this nifty Congress voting database from the Washington Post.
- Check out the complete advocacy clearinghouse ALA has created here for more information and ideas.’
Your presence and work during District Days DOES make a difference!
It’s is almost time for District Days! For those that don’t know, District Days refers to the time that congressional representatives are on recess and are able to return to their home district. This year, the break is from August 8th through September 5th. During this time, representatives often hold town hall meetings, office hours, and meet with a variety of constituents to get their perspectives on current issues.
Here are the Top Ten Reasons Why Every Librarian Should Contact Their Local Legislator’s Office During District Days
10. This is your chance to educate elected officials about a particular area of interest that you have in common.
9. Keeping advocacy efforts at the forefront right now is very important in this tough economy.
8. It is easy! YALSA provides a Legislative Advocacy Guide with information on how to request a meeting and what to say. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/profdev/LegAdvocacyGuide.pdf
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While there are important issues’ affecting libraries on a federal level, what is of most importance to many library workers is what is affecting them at a local level. Local advocacy is just as vital as working on a national level. The ALA’s Legislative Action Center has a number of state issues listed on their site here: http://capwiz.com/ala/issues/‘ Your state library office or association also should be able to make you aware of what is going on locally.
District Days are coming up fast August 8th through September 5th. This is a great way to meet those national representatives in their office. But even if you miss District Days, your local officials should be available most’ times of the year.’ Local officials should be easier to contact than their national counterparts. Remember: advocacy starts in your neighborhood.
District Days (August 9-September 12, 2010) is a window of opportunity to get your elected officials who may be home from Washington DC to come to your library and see firsthand how busy, productive, valuable and life-changing the school or public library is.
Although August seems far away, chances are that your late summer/early fall calendar is in final planning stages, if not already complete, and VIPs who are in demand need a long lead time. So how do you get started in contacting elected officials to invite them to your library for a site visit? Some tips on contacting legislators–or any VIPs–to invite them to the library, follow.
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Remember counting down to the last day of school? I loved class, but that didn’t stop me from counting down after April vacation, the last break before the long summer one.
Although your elected officials work tirelessly for you throughout the year, Congress has a summer recess, too. This recess, which falls from August 9-September 12 in 2010, is commonly referred to as District Days because representatives usually return home to their districts.
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