Creating the NLLD special collection

This is a guest post from Rosalind Seidel, our fall Special Collections Intern joining us from the University of Maryland (UMD). Rosie has one semester left in her MLIS program at UMD, and hopes to become a rare books and special collections librarian. She graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Medieval Studies.

Covers of NLLD participant folders. From top, left to right: "The Card with the Charge" sticker from 1988; "Information Power" button from 1965; "A Word to the Wise" sticker from 1983; "Take time to read" sticker from 1987; "America's greatest bargain: the library" sticker from 1980.

Covers of NLLD participant folders. From top, left to right: “The Card with the Charge” sticker from 1988; “Information Power” button from 1965; “A Word to the Wise” sticker from 1983; “Take time to read” sticker from 1987; “America’s greatest bargain: the library” sticker from 1980.

My first project working in the American Library Association’s Washington Office involved inventorying, processing and creating a finding aid for the wealth of National Library Legislative Day files. Next, this collection will be sent to the ALA Archives where it will be digitized for future access.

Before I began this project, I was unfamiliar with National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) and its purpose. Delving into the files, I quickly learned NLLD is an annual event spanning two days where hundreds of librarians, information professionals and library supporters from across the country come together in Washington, D.C., to meet with their representatives and to advocate for our nation’s libraries.

The files I worked with ranged in date from 1973 to 2016. Such an expanse of years saw quite the development in advocacy for libraries across a 43-year period.Through the files, I got to look at the country and information policy in a whole new light. I began with files from 2016, working my way backward. As I went, it was interesting to see where certain issues arose, and how long they remained focal points. It was surreal, for example, to reach 1994—the year I was born—and see what the ongoing dialogue was, such as “Kids Need Libraries” and “How Stupid Can We Get?”  Surely it is because of the work of library advocates on NLLD that I grew up with the state of libraries and access to information that I did, and I owe them a debt of gratitude. Going forward as a young information professional, it will be my place to do the same.

The reoccurring issues in NLLD’s long history include the Library Services and Construction Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services, copyright, Title 44, the Library Services and Technology Act, the National Endowment for the Humanities, federal funding for libraries, and access to government information… just to name a few.

What I liked about the NLLD files is that the handouts usually took into account all levels of expertise of NLLD participants which, in turn, made the files an approachable collection. The handouts worked to make all NLLD events, such as lobbying, accessible even to the newest of participants and they also informed and educated participants about the issues on the agenda. I also got to handle letters from various U.S. Presidents in support of National Library Week. From those and other documents, I was able to see how information professionals viewed different administrations and, because of that, when NLLD efforts needed to be strengthened.

Overall, I valued the opportunity I was given to learn more about policy, and those policies I was unaware of that have better informed me about the history and state of librarianship. As my internship continues, I will be given the chance to explore the Washington Office’s history and the work they do even more. My internship has allowed me to interact with libraries, government, the information field, and history in incredible ways that I would never have anticipated. I look forward to what is to come.

National Library Legislative Day 2018NLLD 2018 will take place on May 7 and 8. Registration will open on December 1, 2017. To learn more about participating, visit: ala.org/advocacy/advleg/nlld

About Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner is the Information Manager for ALA's Washington Office. She earned her B.A. in Literature from Mount Holyoke College and her M.S.L.I.S. from The Catholic University of America. She can be reached via e-mail at ewagner@alawash.org.

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