Held in DC in early May, day #1 of National Library Legislative Day consists of briefings given by the ALA Washington Office and other “in-the-know” folks in Washington. Seating is in a huge room and reminds me of a political convention in that each state has its large placard sign and its representatives sit together. Various divisions of ALA (AASL, ALSC, ACRL, PLA, YALSA, etc.) are represented as well. President-Elect Steven Yates, Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton, and I attended May 1-2 for AASL.
Day #2 consists of meetings with Senators, Representatives, or, more typically, a member of their staff, and with other Washington officials. Steven, Sylvia, and I were able to meet with education policy advisors for the House Education and the Workforce Committee; staff for the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Other Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Other Agencies Subcommittee; and the US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.
Various key issues were explained during the Monday briefing sessions—privacy/surveillance law reform; high-speed broadband and E-rate modernization; public access to government data and taxpayer-funded information and research; modernization of the copyright office and ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty; net neutrality; and full funding for critical federal library programs. While all these issues are critically important to libraries and for our patrons, we focused messaging on the last—full funding for critical federal library programs. In our meeting at the US Department of Education with Assistant Secretary Jason Botel we centered our message around the importance of having an effective school library program with a professionally trained librarian in every school.
While in DC we received the good news that $1 million had been added to IMLS funding for FY17. Congressional support for increased funding for IMLS at the current time is very encouraging because it sends the message that IMLS is important! Our key asks for the House were to #SaveIMLS (zeroed out in the president’s proposed budget) and for full funding in FY18 for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and for Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL). Our asks on the Senate side were for Senators to sign the LSTA and IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters. (Have your Senators signed? If not please contact them via phone, email, or tweet (or all three!) today. More information can be found at the ALA Action Center.) For both the House and the Senate, we asked for reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA).
I heard and learned so much during this action-packed 48 hours, but I’ll share two key takeaways:
- Individual students: At the US DOE, the message we got was a focus not on institutions or schools but rather on individual student’s needs. (We quickly pointed out that as librarians we work with individual students on a daily basis, providing personalized learning, matching child to book or to information needed, noting also that we work with and get to know children across multiple years.)
- Local stories and data: Over and over we heard the importance of sharing local stories and local data with our Senators and Representatives because, bottom line, they care about what is happening in their states/districts. Kudos to all of you who answered the #Leg2SchLibrary challenge in April! Thank you for connecting with your Congressmen/women and working to start that conversation! We need to be sure that they understand what happens in today’s school libraries and the important role we play in student learning.
For more information about AASL at #NLLD17, please join us on Wednesday, May 10, at noon CT for our monthly Advocacy and Legislation Coalition Call or, if you are not able to be on the call, check out the call archive.
If you are intrigued by all of this, mark next year’s dates, May 7-8, 2018, on your calendar and plan to attend #NLLD18.