National Library Week is the perfect time to make sure that your congressional representative in the House and both U.S. senators know you want them to fight for full federal library funding for fiscal year 2018. They are now home for two full weeks for their spring recess, so you have ample opportunity to make that point loudly, clearly and in as a many places as you can.
Right now is prime time to Fight for Libraries! and against the President’s proposal to eliminate IMLS and efforts in Congress to slash virtually all federal library funding.
First, don’t worry about intruding on your representative’s and senators’ schedule. Congress may be in “recess,” but these breaks from Washington are officially known as “district work periods,” so their days (and nights) are filled with meetings with constituents like you, as well as visits to schools, companies and – yes – potentially libraries back home.
Second, get on their schedules. Call their office nearest you (here’s a handy directory) and ask to meet with your member of Congress and Senators (or their senior staff) during the work period so you – and perhaps three or four other library supporters or patrons (for example, a business owner, social worker, clergy person, soccer mom or dad or any other fans of libraries) – can ask them to oppose eliminating IMLS and support full funding for library programs like LSTA and Innovative Approaches to Literacy in FY 2018. You can find all the background info you need and talking points at Fight for Libraries!
Third, make some noise. Odds are your members of Congress will be hosting at least one Town Hall meeting during the recess. Go! Tell them: 1) how important federal funding is to your local library (an example of how LSTA money gets used would be ideal, but not essential); and 2) that you want them to oppose eliminating IMLS and any cuts in the already very modest funding libraries receive from the federal government. (States get a total of just over $150 million annually under LSTA and IAL receives just $27 million, half of which is dedicated to school libraries.)
Fourth, and really importantly, if you run a library system or library branch contact your members’ local offices and invite your Representative and both Senators to visit your library where you can show them first-hand the incredible things that a 21st century library does for their constituents. Even if that means you can’t deliver any messages that specifically relate to legislation or library funding while you’re “on duty,” it will be enormously valuable to inform your representative’s and senators’ understanding of what a library is and does and how vital their local libraries are to hundreds of thousands of voters in their communities. Hosting a visit and giving a tour is not lobbying and isn’t barred by any laws anywhere.
Finally, whatever contacts you arrange with your members of Congress and their staffs, remember to email them afterwards with a reminder of what you asked for or discussed and, most importantly, to thank them for their time and support. Civility isn’t dead and will help ensure that your efforts pay off in the end.
That’s all there is to it. Drop us a line at the ALA Office of Government Relations if you need any help or to let us know how your meeting or library visit went.