A Report on National Library Legislative Day

I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my now delayed plane to arrive (of course), so why not take a bit of time to tell you lovely people how things went yesterday. As a refresher, I’ve been in DC to meet with Maine’s Senators and Representatives in hopes of getting them to support libraries as strongly as possible. It’s part of the American Library Association’s National Library Legislative Day.

Really, they have it down to an art form. We had a big conference on Monday to go over the main talking points they wanted everyone to push when they met their representatives. Last year it was a laundry list of about 8 or 9 points. This year, they had boiled it down to just three: Reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services, support an open internet with greater reach of broadband, and come out and visit a library the next time they’re back home.

These visits usually only last about fifteen minutes, and some of that is eaten up with introductions, etc, so it was great to be able to keep things focused. Last year, I’d left feeling like we’d had a fine set of meetings, but not necessarily that we’d accomplished anything groundbreaking. This year, it felt different. We met in person with Senators King and Collins and Representatives Poliquin and Pingree. All of them were attentive and eager to support libraries. True, it’s an election year, so the cynic in me says they’d all be more likely to be receptive no matter what, but it didn’t feel like that.

I was particularly impressed with the depth of knowledge Senator Collins had for funding libraries, and how well versed Senator King was with the issues around broadband. Everyone we met with was respectful and gushing about how much they loved libraries, and they all said they’d support our requests.

Representative Poliquin took us over to the House, where we got to go inside and watch the floor debate. (Side note: they did a vote by voice while we were there. It was just like the voice vote for the school budget, right down to each side yelling as loudly as possible to make themselves sound more numerous than the opposition. I found that amusing.)

In any case, it was a good trip. I really do feel like we accomplished something, and I’m very pleased I had the chance to come down. At times it’s too easy to assume laws are passed by people who don’t care and just listen to the loudest lobbyists. This year, meeting with everyone in person, I didn’t feel like that. It felt like they all cared about the issues and wanted to know as much as possible about them. That was encouraging.

We had a great delegation of people down with us from Maine (five in all), and I had a very good time. A special shout out goes to our State Librarian, Jamie Ritter, who coordinated the whole show and did a fantastic job guiding each conversation. I was very impressed with his poise and tact, regardless of whom we were meeting with. A huge chunk of the reason for our success is due to his efforts.

Thanks for reading!

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