Superheros on display at White Oak Library District -Crest Hill Branch Library.
Illinois Library Colleagues Speak Up for Libraries
Hundreds of library supporters from across the country gather each year in Washington, D.C. for the American Library Association’s (ALA) National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). The event provides a perfect opportunity for library staff, trustees, and patrons to join together and talk to members of Congress about the importance of libraries. Activities include one day of briefings and training on important library-related issues, followed by a second day of visits with legislators and/or their staff members.
This year, on May 4 - 5, 2015, Executive Director Dee Brennan and Dave Barry, RAILS Board member and Bartlett Public Library District trustee, were joined by about 30 Illinois library colleagues. RAILS asked Director Barry to comment on the event’s success and share his thoughts on why it is important for library constituents to attend NLLD and speak with their elected officials.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Barry said. “Having the opportunity to formally petition members of Congress on issues of importance to libraries was very interesting and exciting. Being able to do this alongside of representatives from all types of libraries also demonstrated how we are all working together for many of the same causes.”
Barry also said that Illinois delegates felt very comfortable when talking to legislators and their staff, due to the extensive training received ahead of time, the detailed information on important issues provided by ALA, and the work of our state’s coordinating organization, the Illinois Library Association (ILA).
“We were really well prepared going into these visits,” said Barry. ”The day prior to the visits was spent receiving training (including role-playing) and information on what would happen on the visits. In addition to receiving information on important issues, we also received tips on how to get our message across in the most effective manner. ILA scheduled all the actual appointments which lasted about 15-20 minutes each. If you are a first time attendee - you are not put on the spot. They do a great job to help us prepare, offering research on how elected officials voted in the past, and training so we can talk about the most important issues and about how these programs affect people,” he added.
When asked to relay some of the additional tips that could be used when approaching legislators in any setting, Barry passed along the following advice gleaned from his NLLD experience:
- Identify issues of importance and focus on a few key issues
- Find out how members of Congress voted on these issues in the past and thank them for favorable votes
- Share stories about how a particular program affects people, including library patrons and the legislator’s constituents
- Talking to an aide is sometimes just as effective as talking to a legislator because they have the legislator’s ear and are well-versed on the issues
- If you are asked a question and are not sure of the answer, it’s okay to say that you will get back to the legislator with the answer.
After indicating that he would definitely like to attend NLLD events in the future, Barry emphasized the importance of numbers.
“The more library trustees that can attend this event the better. It sends a real message to Congress. They see that we are volunteers who took time away from our jobs to be there because these issues are so important to us,” he said.
For colleagues who have concerns about the cost of attending NLLD, there are scholarship opportunities available. Each year, the White House Conference on Library and Information Services Taskforce (WHCLIST) and the ALA Washington Office offer an award to a non-librarian participant for NLLD attendance. The winner receives a stipend of $300 and two nights lodging. ILA also reserves a block of hotel rooms at a favorable rate for the Illinois delegation. Look for information about next year’s NLLD on ALA’s Advocacy page as it becomes available.
About Dave Barry
Dave Barry has been an avid library user since childhood. While in law school he worked in the library at the Thomas J. Cooley Law School. He was elected to the RAILS Board in 2014 as a public library trustee. He was elected President of the Board of the Bartlett Public Library District in May 2015 and has served on the library’s board since May 2013.
Pictured above: Illinois delegates meet with Josie Villanueva, a legislative aide to Senator Dick Durbin on May 5 in Washington, DC. Clockwise from front left: Stephanie Sarnoff, Schaumburg Township District Library; Carolyn Anthony, Skokie Public Library; Lisa Marie Smith, Vernon Area Public Library District; Executive Director Dee Brennan; Josie Villaneuva, Senator Durbin’s aide; Bob Doyle, Executive Director, ILA; David Seleb, Oak Park Public Library; Jeannie Dilger, La Grange Public Library; Dave Barry, RAILS and Bartlett Public Library District Board member.
RAILS is pleased to announce the winners of our Board election. Congratulations to the following:
- Kate Hall, Northbrook Public Library, At Large seat
- Lisa Knasiak, Brookfield Public Library, Public Trustee seat
- Paul Mills, Fountaindale Public Library District (Bolingbrook), At Large seat
- Sid Ruckriegel, Peoria Public Library, Public Trustee seat
- Lori Wilcox, Chicago Heights Public Library, Public Trustee seat
Thank you to all the candidates who ran for election and to all the RAILS members who voted.