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The 111th Congress is now sworn in. In order to maximize our influence on key library issues, we must be proactive in educating our new and returning elected officials on ALA’s legislative agenda. There will likely be new bills introduced this afternoon — and onslaught of new bills in the coming months. We need to start building relationships with our senators and representatives early to make them aware of the key legislative issues for the library community during this critical time.


I recommend that you invite them to visit your library so they can see firsthand the critical services that libraries provide. It doesn’t matter if you are a school library, a public library or an academic library — our elected officials need to see them all.

Not only should this invitation go to the elected official, but make sure to include your contact information and copy the scheduler on this request so they can follow up with you. Finding the scheduler can be as simple as calling their D.C. office and asking for their e-mail address.

Plan opportunities in the coming months to invite your senators and respective representatives to come into your library — for a tour of your library services, a town hall meeting, reading to children at a school or public library, or a “friends of library” meeting. Contact the local offices of each representative and senator to find out more about their schedules for visits to their home states or districts. In the meantime, also find out more about attending their already scheduled town hall meetings to find out more about your elected officials and to raise important library questions.


The Legislative Action Center: The LAC is a central location to review updates about federal issues and then immediately fax or e-mail Congress to urge them to support libraries. This is an easy way for new and veteran advocates to get involved immediately.

National Library Legislative Day: On May 11 and 12, library advocates across the country will convene in Washington, D.C. and meet with their Congressional representatives to speak about the library issues that matter the most.

Virtual Legislative Day: Can’t make it to Washington, D.C.? You can still be a voice for libraries! While every day should be a virtual legislative day, you can be part of an organized effort by writing or calling your elected official on a scheduled date, or meet with them in the District. It’s always beneficial to invite them to see firsthand all the critical resources that libraries provide by touring your local library.

Federal Library Legislative Action Network: FLLAN is a rapid-response grassroots network made up of individuals and groups who have made a commitment to actively and immediately respond to calls for action related to federal issues. FLLAN advocates have also made the commitment to forward calls to action to other advocates who can help by contacting Congress. While this network initially participated in contacting their elected officials, it has evolved into a multifaceted grassroots strategy. FLLAN members are inviting their members of Congress to tour their local libraries, and they provide feedback on key ALA issues and many other projects.

Webinars and Podcasts: The ALA Washington Office, in conjunction with advocacy expert Stephanie Vance from Advocacy Associates, hosts monthly Webinars on advocacy. Sample topics include “Communicating with Your Member of Congress,” “Building an Effective Grassroots Strategy,” Grassroots and the Appropriations Process,” and many more exciting and timely topics! This information will be posted on the Washington Office’s Web site under “Upcoming Events” as well as the District Dispatch.

In the coming months, there will be many more podcasts, wiki’s, talking points, and other communications tools for advocates for some of the important bills and legislative proposals that will be discussed in the upcoming Congress. The Washington Office will continually offer a variety of information resources about current federal issues that impact libraries, including Online Advocacy Tools.

THIRD — LEARN ABOUT KEY ISSUES FOR ALA’S LEGISLATIVE AGENDA! You will also find more about the important issues that ALA will be working on as the new Congress moves forward on our Web pages. In December 2008, the ALA Washington Office submitted a report to the Obama-Biden Transition Team and is now sharing it with Congress, outlining the goals and concerns of the library community that warrant the new Administration’s and the Congress’s attention.

The report Opening the “Window to a Larger World,” Libraries’ Role in Changing America, include issues such as:

  • Broadband build-out and telecommunications policy;
  • Funding for federal library programs for the Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) as well as school libraries;
  • Access and transparency in government including support for the role of libraries in providing e-government services and access to government information;
  • Support for library & information services for veterans, active-duty military and their families;
  • Literacy & Lifelong learning; and,
  • Copyright.

(See the full report here.)

Finally, if you haven’t already subscribed to the ALA “District Dispatch,” please be sure to sign up and stay up-to-date as legislative activities move forward in the 111th Congress. There is tremendous opportunity and challenge in this Congress — but we will only prevail if we increase the effectiveness of ALA’s grassroots advocacy. That means all of us need to say informed, active and consistent when contacting our Members of Congress. We appreciate your ongoing advocacy and look forward to working with even more of you during the 111th Congress.

Please feel free to comment on this blog, email us at the ALA Office of Government Relations (OGR) or call us at 1-800-941-8478. Our staff will be glad to answer your questions and hear your ideas about how we can all work together to advance the library agenda. We’ll be using this blog and other tools to report on new bills, Congressional actions and other ALA legislative activities.

Lynne Bradley, Director
ALA Office of Government Relations

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