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Rep. Wittman Visits Library Thanks to Librarian Encouragement

Rob Wittman with CRRL Deputy Director Caroline Parr
Rob Wittman with Central Rappahannock Regional Library (VA) Deputy Director Caroline Parr

Librarians across the country are taking advantage of the slow end of summer to invite policymakers and business leaders to visit their libraries. Today, Martha Hutzel, who is the branch manager of the John M. Porter Memorial Library in Stafford, Va., brought Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) in to her library to speak to members of the North Stafford Rotary Club, a local chapter of Rotary International. Hutzel has been a long-time member of the service organization.

This morning, Rep. Wittman spoke to Rotary Club members at the Porter Library about his legislative work and political initiatives. Afterwards, Hutzel led Rep. Wittman and his staff on a tour throughout the library, which has recently been renovated.

Rotary International has been a champion of libraries and programs to address literacy, so naturally, Hutzel says that was a good fit to bring the North Stafford Rotary Club meeting to her library branch. She has since convinced the local chapter to host regular meetings at the library.

Hutzel, who has been a librarian for 24 years, says that she was motivated to invite the legislator to visit her branch after participating in the Public Library Association’s “Turning the Page 2.0” webinar series last year.

“I had been involved in library advocacy work for two years, but the ‘Turning the Page’ program clicked for me,” she said. “I realized that most people want a library in their community, even if they don’t use it. The supporters are there–you just have to go out in the community to them.”

She also credits her sense of advocacy to her experience working with community leaders: In addition to being a member of the North Stafford Rotary Club, she is also involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. Hutzel says that she is always looking for opportunities to speak to others about libraries.

“When I know that [leaders] are speaking in my community, I go and make sure that they know that I’m from the library,” she said, adding that Rotary International offers opportunities for librarians to work with business leaders. “I think a lot of librarians would do well to get involved in Rotary clubs. It brings some good connections in the community that you wouldn’t get so easily.

“Ask legislators to visit your library in October or November, right before the elections,” she said. “They may not be aware of the work that we do and the amount that it costs to keep libraries running —it isn’t free. What better way to show what we do than to have a legislator visit your library?”

To learn more about how to bring decision makers to your library, watch the tutorial “They’ve Got to See it to Believe It: Getting Decision Makers Into Your Library” or view “Turning the Page” 2.0 resources.

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Jazzy Wright

Jazzy Wright is a former press officer of the Washington Office.

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