Library Advocates Converge on the Capitol

Library Advocates Converge on the Capitol

More than 400 librarians and library supporters converged on Washington, D.C., May 13–14 for the American Library Association’s 34th annual National Library Legislative Day. They came from as far away as Hawaii and from a variety of libraries to lobby their members of Congress on such issues as copyright, telecommunications, and funding. “Vote for Libraries!” was the message of the day and the enthusiastic crowd set out to bring that message to their senators and representatives.

National Library Legislative Day is actually a two-day event and begins with a briefing day designed to bring participants up to speed on the wide variety of federal issues, with speakers from the ALA Washington Office, the Center for National Security Studies, the lobbying firm of Van Scoyoc Associates, as well as several ALA consultants. The guest speaker was Nancy Tate, executive director of the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund. The second day was National Library Legislative Day itself, and, prepped by a day of briefings and armed with half a dozen issue briefs supplied by the ALA Washington Office, the library advocates talked shop with members of Congress and their staffs.

The Legislative Day events ended with a reception where attendees swapped stories and mingled with members of Congress; this year’s reception attracted several, including Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The reception took place in the Russell Senate Office Building’s historic Caucus Room, the oldest Senate assembly room outside the Capitol Building.

Librarians and library supporters who couldn’t make it to D.C. but still wanted to participate opted for Virtual Library Legislative Day by e-mailing, calling, and faxing their members of Congress. This year marked a first for Virtual Legislative Day, as the event made its way into the online environment Second Life.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) received the Friends of Libraries USA Public Service Award, which honors a legislator who has been especially supportive of libraries. Rep. Ehlers, who is one of the sponsors of the SKILLs Act, expressed his gratitude for the “outstanding boost” he received from “my voracious reading of library books” as a child who was home-schooled due to illness. Frances E. Wielin received the ALA/White House Conference on Library and Information Services Taskforce National Library Legislative Day Award. A trustee in the Palos Verdes (Calif.) Library District, Wielin has been an active library supporter for more than a decade.

ALA President Loriene Roy joined representatives from the Association of Public Television Stations and the Public Broadcasting Service for a press conference at the National Press Club to provide more information about a library partnership to deliver straightforward, uncomplicated answers to communities nationwide about the approaching digital television transition. ALA, APTS, and PBS plan to create and distribute a resource kit that includes informative materials libraries can provide to their patrons or offer as handouts in workshops about the transition. Online links and video segments will also be available for libraries to provide on the Web. Public television stations will supply the experts to serve as presenters at library events and to help librarians answer questions from their patrons. The local phase of the initiative will launch in October.

Posted on May 16, 2008. Discuss.