Originally published by American Libraries in Cognotes during ALA Midwinter 2017.
The list of core library values is a proud one, and a long one. For the past 42 years, library supporters from all over the country have gathered in Washington, D.C. in May with one goal in mind – to advance libraries’ core values and communicate the importance of libraries to Members of Congress. They’ve told their stories, shared data and highlighted pressing legislation impacting their libraries and their patrons.
This year, Congressional action may well threaten principles and practices that librarians hold dear as never before. That makes it more important than ever that National Library Legislative Day 2017 be the best attended ever. So, let’s tackle a few of the common misconceptions about National Library Legislative Day that often keep people from coming to D.C. to share their own stories:
- Only librarians can attend.
This event is open to the public and anyone who loves libraries – students, business owners, stay-at-home moms, just plain library enthusiasts – has a story to tell. Those firsthand stories are critical to conveying to members of Congress and their staffs just how important libraries are to their constituents.
- Only policy and legislative experts should attend.
While some attendees have been following library legislative issues for many years, many are first time advocates. We provide a full day of training to ensure that participants have the most up-to-date information and can go into their meetings on Capitol Hill fully prepared to answer questions and convey key talking points.
- I’m not allowed to lobby.
The IRS has developed guidelines so that nonprofit groups and private citizens can advocate legally. Even if you are a government appointee, there are ways you can advocate on issues important to libraries and help educate elected officials about the important work libraries do.
Still concerned? The National Council of Nonprofits has resources to help you.
- My voice won’t make a difference.
From confirming the new Librarian of Congress in 2016 to limiting mass surveillance under the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015 to securing billions in federal support for library programs over many decades, your voice combined with other dedicated library advocates’ has time and again defended the rights of the people we serve and moved our elected officials to take positive action. This can’t be done without you!
- I can’t participate if I don’t go to D.C.
Although having advocates in D.C. to personally visit every Congressional office is hugely beneficial – and is itself a powerful testimony to librarian’s commitment to their communities – you can participate from home. During Virtual Library Legislative Day you can help effectively double the impact of National Library Legislative Day by calling, emailing or tweeting Members of Congress using the same talking points carried by onsite NLLD participants.
Legislative threats to core library values are all too real this year. Don’t let myths prevent you from standing up for them on May 1-2, 2017. Whether you’ve been advocating for 3 months or 30 years, there’s a place for you in your National Library Legislative Day state delegation, either in person or online.
For more information, and to register for National Library Legislative Day, please visit ala.org/nlld.