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We’re only as good as our members are engaged

Postcard with text that says: "Libraries are a smart investment."
This week at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 Conference, academic librarians and information professionals convened around the emerging issues challenging higher education, due to federal funding cuts and new regulations.

On Thursday morning, ALA and ACRL jointly hosted a Postcards to Lawmakers town hall, during which member leaders Emily Drabinski, coordinator of library instruction at Long Island University in Brooklyn, and Clay Williams, deputy chief librarian at Hunter College in Manhattan and our very own Lisa Lindle, grassroots communication specialist at the ALA Washington Office, offered insight to those seeking advice and encouragement about how to effectively advocate for libraries in the face of drastic cuts. The panel offered insight on how to sign up for and use ALA’s Legislative Action Center and collected questions from the audience. American Libraries magazine covered their talk here.

On Friday morning’s Academic Libraries and New Federal Regulations session, Corey Williams, a federal lobbyist at the National Education Association (and formally an ALA lobbyist in the Washington Office) again urged members to step up to the plate. Corey made two illustrative points: ALA has 3 lobbyists for our nearly 60,000 members and one person is only one voice. In other words: Lobbyists are only as good as our members are engaged.

Advocacy is akin to a muscle; you can flex it once, by sending a tweet or an email. But we are one mile into a marathon and advocacy is a muscle that needs to be exercised constantly. Both town halls offered some immediate steps you can take in this next leg of the race.

Do Your Reps
• Did you write a postcard? Great. Now tweet a picture of that postcard to your representatives with the line: “No cuts for funding for museums and libraries. #SaveIMLS

Short Sprints
• Sign up for ALA’s Legislative Action Center.
• Then, prepare a talking point about why IMLS is important to your community and share it with a friend or patron so you can customize your emails to Congress.

• Invite your representatives to visit your library (ProTip: Work with your organization’s government relations office to coordinate.)
• Attend a constituent coffee when your reps are home during the weeks of April 10 and April 17 (Note: This period of time that they’re home also happens to be National Library Week. If that time is not possible, other times are good, too, whenever the Member is at home.)
• Think about who can you partner or create a coalition with in your community.
• Pair your data (i.e., how much LSTA funding you receive) with anecdote (i.e. how that money made a transformative difference to your patrons).

In response to other that came up, here are two other helpful references:
• Here’s what the National Archives and Records Administration says about irradiated mail
• Here’s where you can look up your representative’s social media handle

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Emily Wagner

Emily is a deputy director of Advocacy Communications in the ALA's Advocacy and Public Policy Office. She holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master's in library and information science from Catholic University.

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