State Librarian Lamar Veatch Makes 15th Annual Trip to D.C. for National Library Legislative Day
Federal and state budget cuts to library programs has not stopped Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch, 63, from traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional lawmakers to save funding needed for our nation’s libraries and library services.
This year marked Veatch’s 15th annual trip to the nation’s capital to participate in National Library Legislative Day, the American Library Association-sponsored event where more than 350 librarians and library supporters met with members of Congress from April 23—24, 2012, to discuss key library issues.
While in Washington, Veatch met with representatives from Congress, including the offices of Reps. Austin Scott, John Lewis, Rob Woodall, as well as Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Veatch discussed Appropriations funding in those meetings, advocating specifically for funds supporting literacy, such as the Library Services and Technology Act.
Veatch thinks of his role in Library Legislative Day as an opportunity to create more library supporters.
“I try to make that connection to libraries for legislatures,” he said. “It’s important to keep the role and use of libraries in the minds of decision makers–they need to be aware that libraries are important institutions. Libraries are efficient in the services they provide, but they need more funding to be effective in the community.”
Veatch said that coming to D.C. is a big part of his commitment to his profession.
“My job is to represent libraries, and it’s a part of my professional responsibilities to do this,” Veatch said. “If I’m [in Washington], I might make a difference. And, truthfully, it’s fun.”
Veatch, who resides in John’s Creek, Ga., started his career in libraries immediately after graduating from college with a history degree at age 22. During the span of his forty-year career, Veatch’s support for public libraries has taken him to accept leadership positions in states across the country, including Texas, Colorado and Alabama.
When Veatch is back in Georgia, he serves at the director of the Georgia Public Library Service, a state-wide system that supports public libraries through leadership, programs and services. As the state librarian, Veatch meets often with local and state legislators to keep state library programs like the Collaborative Summer Library Program and the GALILEO virtual library system running.
“In Georgia, library use is up–we’re at the highest number in recent years,” Veatch said, adding that the state’s 6000 library computers are failing to meet the current demands of library patrons. “The state libraries have maxed out the computers available–we topped out all that infrastructure.”
According to a recent report by the American Library Association, use of public libraries has increased nationwide as many Americans have flocked to libraries to search for jobs and seek support for e-government-related tasks.
Veatch said that Georgia library administrators are facing the challenge of acquiring adequate Internet bandwidth for public libraries.
“As more and more people come in [to Georgia libraries], that puts a stress on bandwidth and infrastructure,” said Veatch. “I’ve seen people get to the library early to sit in their car to use the library’s Wi-Fi.”
The state’s current demand for library services helps Veatch stay motivated to advocate for public libraries. Veatch says that his primary goal when meeting with legislators and policy committees is to create more library supporters for the future.
“When meeting with decision makers, even if you’re not getting funding, you’re making good relationships for later,” he said. “This work is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Press Officer, ALA, Washington Office