Every spring, the American Library Association sponsors National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) in Washington, D.C. In spite of the name, the event lasts for more than one day, and this year will take place on May 7-8, 2013. The purpose of NLLD is for librarians and our supporters to lobby Congress directly to support library initiatives. But, given that public libraries receive most of their funding from local revenue, you may find yourself wondering how such national-level advocacy applies to you. While building and maintaining local relationships will always be key for public libraries, there are a number of national-level issues that deserve our continuing support and are directly relevant to our daily work.
On the ALA Legislative Action Center website, you can learn about bills before Congress that relate to librarianship. At the top of the list is the FASTR (Fair Access to Science and Technology Research) Act, which would make “articles reporting on publicly funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.” But there are other bills of interest coming up as well. For example, one would “authorize the cancellation of Perkins Loans for students who perform public service as librarians in low-income schools and public libraries.” In addition, amendments to the Communications Act could impact net neutrality and young patrons’ access to social media on library computers.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also needs ongoing support at the national level. As you may know, they oversee a number of projects that help public libraries with programming and services. For example, they administer the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which provides states with funding for access to technology. They’re also the primary source of grant funding for all types of libraries.
If you do choose to attend NLLD and show your support of these and other library-related initiatives, you’ll get to participate at the highest level by meeting with members of Congress and their staff. Details of the schedule are available and constantly updated at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/nlld/schedule and include intensive training, a reception with legislators, and individual meetings with legislators from your home state. If you have Friends or benefactors who are interested in attending, they can apply for a $300 stipend from White House Conference on Library and Information Services Taskforce.
Finally, while your in-person support at the national level is always appreciated, there are other ways to participate. National Virtual Library Legislative Day will take place on May 8, and although not all the details have been released yet, you can sign up for it on Facebook. Also, be on the lookout for your state’s library day as well. For example, here in Minnesota, we just had our own Library Legislative Advocacy Day, which included in-person and virtual components. Check with your state library association—local events can be a great way to learn and get your feet wet before participating at the national level.