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Category: Advocacy Spotlight

What congressmen need to know about libraries

Kevin Smith
Virginia Library Association President-elect Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith knows how to get library advocates revved up about meeting with policymakers. As the President-elect and Legislative Coordinator of the Virginia Library Association, Kevin uses his political expertise and messaging know-how to advocate effectively for libraries every year during the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). When he’s not in Washington, D.C. advocating for libraries, Smith–an advocate with more than 13 years of experience–works as the director of the York County Public Library in Yorktown, Va.

When you meet with legislators, what’s the most important thing you want them to know about libraries?

My strategy is all about educating our congressmen about what libraries do. When I go to Washington with librarians, library friend groups, and patrons, we let those congressmen know that we’re not just about asking for money–the American Library Association (ALA) has always been a watchdog for civil liberties. We also talk about the resources that we offer and that libraries help residents find jobs, a selling point that we have emphasized to legislators over the last couple of years. We tell them that most employers–including local, state, and federal government–require online applications, and if you don’t have a PC at home you can’t apply for a job, so people come to the library. We’re there to be a presence. Everybody loves libraries and we need to go to the Capitol to show them what a 21st century library does and what the ALA stands for.

They need to know that we are an educational institution. We’re not Blockbuster. Entertainment is part of our business, but our major business is education and literacy.

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Advocacy Spotlight: Speaking with ALA Councilor Jessica Scalph

Jessica Scalph is no stranger to library advocacy. The Virginia-based librarian, who has served as the ALA Virginia Chapter Councilor since 2008, has used her public library experience and background as law librarian to become well-versed in Internet filtering, library funding and intellectual freedom issues. Scalph also knows how to…

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Use the Force: How One Mass. Librarian is Using Star Wars to Get Teens Engaged

As schools and non-profit organizations struggle to improve national youth reading achievement levels, one Massachusetts librarian has devised a way to convert teenagers into active members of their local libraries: Get them excited about Star Wars. Librarian Peter Struzziero, 29, has hosted the “Stars Wars Symposium”–a workshop program that he…

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Advocacy Spotlight: Putting Libraries on the Ballot

In 2010, computer software designer Tom Atkins, 70, was an advocate for Colorado public libraries who had spent more than 20 years asking policymakers and local county officials to keep library funding intact. Then, without warning, commissioners in his local county of Jefferson, Colorado, voted to divert property tax revenues…

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Joan Ress Reeves, devoted trustee with a longtime commitment to libraries shares advocacy insights and stories

Joan Ress Reeves began her career in library advocacy more than thirty years ago in Providence, R.I. Now, Joan serves as a member of the Library Board of Rhode Island, the organization that advises the Office of Library and Information Services on policy issues and funding for state libraries. Reeves…

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