The American Library Association’s Library Advocacy Day rally on Capitol Hill was a success thanks to the participation of over 1,600 ALA members and advocates of all ages who braved the 90-degree heat on June 29 to take part in the largest federal advocacy event in ALA history.
“As library advocates in your states, you represent Americans in every community across this country — people who need their libraries,” ALA President Camila Alire told the crowd as she opened the rally.
“You have all read the headlines about the funding cuts in libraries across the country. You’ve lived those cuts,” Alire said, adding the advocacy day was the ALA’s chance to make sure Congress also knew about the needs of our nation’s libraries of all kinds.
Alire emphasized the main themes of the advocacy day including increasing Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding to $300 million for FY2011 and including support for school librarians in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Pumping up the crowd for their meetings on the Hill following the rally, she led the group with the rally cry, “We’re going to tell them!”
Special speakers at the event were best-selling and “banned books” young adult author Lauren Myracle, as well as long-time Congressional champions of libraries, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI-3).
Reed reinforced the need to increase LSTA funding and to include school libraries in ESEA, referring to school libraries as “the heart and soul” of education. Reed’s speech also touched upon the important role public libraries play in our weak economy and how Congress must step up to address the impact budget cuts are having on libraries.
“We have to do more,” Reed said, adding that Congress must recognize that libraries are essential to civic life and engagement.
Ehlers, who will retire from Congress at the end of the year, shared a personal story about how libraries and reading shaped his life during a period of time in his childhood when illness kept him from attending school.
Ehlers is one of the strongest allies libraries have in Congress, according to ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff.
“We have always been able to count on Congressman Ehlers to insert libraries into Congressional discussions and to remind his colleagues of the invaluable role libraries play in education, civic engagement and access to information and technology,” Sheketoff said. “He will be greatly missed.”
In honor of Ehlers’ years of leadership, the ALA presented him with a certificate of appreciation.
ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels served as the final rally speaker and empowered the state delegations meeting with Congress to remember they represent the millions of school children and Americans who depend on library services every day