One State’s Experience at National Library Legislative Day

Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 12:47
Library supporters bring their concerns to Capitol Hill for face-to-face meetings
Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch (right) gets the attention of Tom Dorney, legislative assistant to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Photo by Jacob Roberts

Concern over federal and state budget cuts to library programs motivated Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch to make his 15th annual trip to Washington, D.C., for National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). In fact, Veatch asserts, coming to D.C. is a big part of his commitment to librarianship. “My job is to represent libraries, and it’s a part of my professional responsibilities to do this,” Veatch said. “If I’m in Washington, I might make a difference.”

Veatch joined more than 350 librarians and library supporters who met face-to-face with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss key library issues April 23–24 at NLLD. Sponsored by the American Library Association, NLLD is designed to afford grassroots library boosters the opportunity to advise congressional lawmakers about why it is essential to save funding needed for libraries and library services.

Those who made the trek to the nation’s capital were joined April 24 by advocates participating in ALA’s Virtual Library Legislative Day. Locally based participants had ready access to contact information for their elected officials through the Association’s action alert gateway, and ALA encouraged advocates to phone and/or email their state’s congressional members during the entire week of April 23–27.  Advocates outside the Beltway reported sending more than 300 messages to Congress that week through ALA’s Capwiz interface.

While in Washington, Veatch met with representatives from various members of Congress from Georgia, including the offices of Reps. Austin Scott, John Lewis, and Rob Woodall, as well as Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Veatch discussed appropriations funding, specifically for the Library Services and Technology Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Veatch thinks of his role in Library Legislative Day as an opportunity to create more library supporters.

“I try to make that connection to libraries for legislators,” he said. “It’s important to keep the role and use of libraries in the minds of decision makers. They need to be aware that libraries are important institutions. Libraries are efficient in the services they provide, but they need more funding to be effective in the community.”

Over the years, NLLD has also given ALA an opportunity to thank elected officials who have steadfastly championed support for libraries at the federal level. This year, ALA’s American Association for School Librarians bestowed its highest advocacy honor, the Crystal Apple, to Sen. Jack Reed (D–R.I.).

Library advocate Louis “Buzz” Carmichael, a member of the Lexington (Ky.) Public Library board, was also recognized during NLLD with the White House Conference on Library and Information Services Taskforce (WHCLIST) Award for his commitment to supporting the nation’s libraries.

JAZZY WRIGHT is press officer for ALA’s Washington Office.