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Why All Librarians Should be Vocal Advocates

Nancy Pelosi
Photo by Talk Radio News Service

Today, I had the opportunity to attend “Women 2020: How Women Are Reshaping the Economy, Politics and the World,” an event hosted by the National Journal magazine focused on bringing influential women in Washington together to discuss the evolving role of women in the economy, policy and politics.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi headlined the event, and several women leaders spoke at the event, including Anu Bhagwati from the Service Women’s Action Network, Margaret Ann Hamburg from the Food and Drug Administration, and Rand Construction CEO Linda Rabbitt.

At one point during the event, Pelosi told the audience about the weekly Tuesday dinners that she would have with several Democratic Members of Congress, including Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Barbara Kennelly. At these dinners, they would meet to talk about different issues (with the men at the table dominating the conversation), she said. On one particular evening, all of the men discussed the days that their children were born. Pelosi mentioned that at no point during the conversation did the men at the table ask the women–who had given birth to ten children between them–about their personal experiences giving birth.

While Pelosi shared the story to encourage women in the audience to speak up for themselves and to share their own experiences without being prompted, I found that the core message of her advice should be known by all librarians: Don’t wait to be empowered, don’t wait for someone to ask you about your own experiences. We need to speak up when policymakers discuss issues that we know and care about, be it education, literacy or technology.

In her interview with the District Dispatch, school library veteran Sara Kelly Johns said that all librarians should have their own elevator speeches, saying, “Every librarian needs a message–it needs to be on the tip of your tongue, and it needs to be deliberate and continuous.” I am encouraging all librarians to empower themselves today by speaking up for libraries when opportunities arise and being prepared at all times to promote their passion.

Emily Sheketoff
Executive Director, ALA Washington Office

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Emily Sheketoff

Emily Sheketoff is the former Associate Executive Director of the American Library Association's Washington Office.

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