I headed back to Maine today, after quite the trip to Washington DC. I was part of the Maine delegations for ALA’s National Library Legislative Day. In a nutshell, this meant that on Monday I attended meetings where ALA leaders went over the main things they wanted members of Congress to be aware of. Different legislative efforts and funding changes. I also met with the other 5 members from Maine, and we figured out how best to approach Tuesday, where we met with each of our representatives.
A few observations on those meetings. First off, I was amazed at how . . . young almost everyone was that we met with. We had appointments with Senator Collins, Senator King, Representative Poliquin, and Representative Pingree. The two senators met with us in person. The two representatives were unable to. However, in each case, most of the meeting consisted of us meeting with their aides. We had maybe 5 minutes with Senator Collins, and about the same with Senator King. Long enough to chat, shake hands, take a few pictures, and that was that.
The aides mostly looked fresh out of college. I don’t think of myself as ageist, but it definitely felt strange to be with a contingent of library professionals who have decades of experience in the field, and we’re all speaking about our needs with people who look surprisingly similar to the students I teach in library classes each day. In some cases, I was impressed to see how well they understood the political landscape. In others, not so much.
Does anyone have any idea why there don’t seem to be many older aides in DC? From what I heard, that’s pretty much par for the course.
In any case, the meetings went well. Senators Collins and King are both avid library supporters, so it very much felt like we were preaching to the choir. Representative Pingree also has a long record of voting to support libraries. It was interesting to see how nice the Senators’ offices were, and how scrunched together the Representatives seemed to be. Definite difference, and every building you go into has metal detectors and security at each entrance.
I found some time to do some other things while in DC, though. Tuesday afternoon I walked 10 miles, visiting most of the Smithsonian museums. There are a lot of them, and they’re quite spread out. It was a blast to see some Van Goghs, Monets, the Hope Diamond, the Star Trek Enterprise model from the original series, mummies, and more. And I had some great food, of course. Fantastic gelato at Pitango’s, super pasta at Old Ebbitt Grill, tasty pizza at Matchbox, and more. I met with my agent, and a couple of guys I had been on my mission with in Germany. (Crazy to see them, almost 20 years later. When did we get older?) I also had the chance to visit with my brother’s family on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a good trip. I understand a bit better how politics work here in America. That’s always a plus. I need to get my family down here with me sometimes. Until then, I’m looking forward to getting home and having at least a few days where I don’t have to worry about suitcases and travel plans.