When our library delegation (made up of all kind of librarians) met with staffers representing Senators Mikulski (D, MD) and Cardin (D, MD) in Washington DC last week for National Library Legislative Day, I made a point of thanking them for their support of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the inclusion of school libraries in the legislation. This personal “thank you” set a welcoming tone for the meeting and made the conversation around some of the other major issues (support of LSTA and IAL, Freedom of Information Act, etc.) to be addressed much easier.
The AASL Legislative Committee believes everyone deserves “thanks” and by doing so we continue to advocate and to drive home the importance of school libraries. If you haven’t reached out with a “thank you” for ESSA – it is as important to do so. Our representatives in DC have done something positive for us and need to “feel the love.”
It’s easy to reach out – we have created a letter template for you that you may modify or use “as is.” The letter template may be found on the AASL ESSA landing page at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/legislation/essa.
The letter may be sent via email, regular mail, or faxed. Check on your representative’s web site about preferences – they are often listed or have an e-mail form into which you may electronically copy your letter. Include a personal story in your email about the positive impact your school library program has had on your students and the school community.
We have also included links to the ALA Scorecard (2015) on how your representatives voted. Check those first before sending your letters to make sure your representatives indeed deserve your thanks – some folks did vote against ESSA.
ALA Senate Scorecard: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/advleg/federallegislation/legscard/SenateScorecard2015.pdf
ALA House Scorecard: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/advleg/federallegislation/legscard/HouseScorecard2015.pdf
Should you expect a response? Members of Congress all together receive more than 200 million emails and letters every year. On average, each member has about four staff people handling constituent communications – senators often have a few more.
Before email, most Congressional offices heard from about 2 percent of their constituents. Now the figure is closer to 4 percent to 5 percent. The challenge for each office is how to deal with the increased volume of communication in an efficient and meaningful manner. In other words don’t expect a response right away but don’t be discouraged.
We want all AASL members to build a relationship with your representatives (national, state, and local) over time. Part of that dialogue develops by asking questions, sending in letters (or emails), and arranging for a face-to-face visit. All Representatives have district offices with local staff assigned which is also a place to begin that relationship. The template letter we have supplied for you simply ends with – “We applaud your continued support and invite you to visit a school library in your community today.” We hope you will send a personal invitation to your representative to visit your school library at some point and begin developing that relationship. A “THANK YOU” is always a good first step!