New Congress Still Offers Opportunities for Libraries

January 9, 2011

“Libraries have traditionally done well under Republicans,” according to ALA Washington Office Director Emily Sheketoff, who told those attending the Washington Office Update Break-Out Session, “New Congress, New Challenges,” that “all is not bleak, but all is not well either.”

Casey Dominguez, assistant professor of political science at the University of San Diego, provided an overview of the November 2010 election, calling the fact that from a political science perspective Tea Party candidates did just as well as non–Tea Party candidates “interesting and puzzling.”

“Extremely liberal Democrats did not lose,” Dominguez said. She said moderates lost in three categories—in areas where there were open seats, those where Democrats won the seat from Republicans recently, and those held by long-term Democrats where President Barack Obama did not perform as well in 2008.

Sheketoff said the new Congress could very well be a good mix for library-related issues; those who care about using money wisely, those who want to see the outcomes of that investment, and those who advocate for a strong America. “There are many natural connections and it’s up to you to find them,” she said.

She noted that the Republican House has committed its members to spending more time working at home and they could be working in libraries, doing such things as participating in book clubs with teens, talking to teens, and seeing how seniors are using technology.

“We have a lot coming up in federal legislation and we need champions,” Sheketoff said.

She urged librarians to sign up for the Washington Office’s District Dispatch, check out the advocacy seminars on ALA’s website, establish relationships with members of Congress, and invite the media to library programs.

“There’s a mini-revolution on Capitol Hill and it’s up to us to tell them what we want them to be,” Sheketoff maintained.

The session ended on a sad note with news of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.), members of her staff, and constituents attending a “Congress on your Corner” event outside a local grocery story in Tucson. Congresswoman Giffords remains in critical condition after brain surgery.

The shooting rampage killed six and injured 14 others. Jared Loughner, age 22, a suspect in the shooting, has been charged by federal authorities with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.