Report on National Library Legislative Day, 2011

United States Capitol from Capitol Hill
In the beginning of May I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC and participate in National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). What a great experience, not only to visit the warmth of the sun, but also to make legislative office visits and tell staff what matters to us and to library users in Oregon.

The title National Library Legislative Day is a bit misleading, because it’s not one day, but two! On Monday, May 9th the ALA Washington Office hosted a briefing day, wherein NLLD participants receive the most up to date information about what’s happening on the hill.

This year, the briefing day consisted mainly of presentations about the issues, but was prefaced by a fantastic presentation called Divided Congress: Surveying the Landscape of the 112th Congress. Panelists included the moderator, Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director of the ALA Washington Office; Vic Klatt, former Chief of staff for Representative John Boehner and current partner at Penn Hill Group; Danica Petroshius, former chief of staff for the late Senator Ted Kennedy and partner at Penn Hill Group. I found this panel to be most interesting, because panelist gave a great overview of what is happening in congress.

Namely, panelists discussed the “weird” place in which libraries find themselves in the 112th Congress. Petroshius stressed that since appropriations and other budgetary items are the biggest item, that none of the budget cuts seem to be backed by any philosophy, they are just about “political expediency.”  And to paraphrase Klatt, “No one will say anything bad about libraries” but the weird place for them is that they aren’t anyone one thing. They aren’t treated like education or like social services. Library advocates should “find a place for libraries in every bill that goes forward.” Essentially, libraries and library advocates need to frame arguments for libraries in every forum and every avenue possible. Just hearing this perspective from panelists was eye-opening to me.

Following the day of briefing, we were off to legislative office appointments on Tuesday. The team from Oregon divvied up the meetings so that we Oregonians visited every Oregon Representative’s and Senator’s office.

I had the pleasure of joining some team members to chat with an aides from Representative Walden’s office; Representative Blumenauer’s office, and Senator Wyden’s office.  For each of these visits the team concentrated on appropriations and funding, since that is what was currently the issue in Congress. We advocated to keep LSTA funding levels as promised, and provided information about what LSTA funds in the state. Team members were even successful in getting Representative Blumenauer to sign onto a “dear colleague letter” in support of LSTA funding!

Although funding was at the foremost of most everyone’s mind we also did discuss other issues pertaining to libraries. Privacy and surveillance had active legislation in the Senate while library advocates from all over were on the hill. Since then, President Obama has signed the legislation that extended the USA PATRIOT Act; against which library advocates were lobbying. The issue is that the USA PATRIOT Act extension does not provide the necessary privacy reforms that provide protection to library patrons. For more information about this issue, read more over at ALA’s District Dispatch.

There were many issue briefs in the packets we presented to legislators, but funding and privacy took the forefront during our visits. For a complete list of issues included in NLLD, take a peek at my previous blog post for links to issues and resources.

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