New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

From the President: February 2014

Photo of Sara Kelly Johns

Stand Up for Libraries: Participate in Library Legislative Day

Sara Kelly Johns, NYLA President

$4 million dollars that we worked hard to get added to last year’s state aid disappeared in this year’s Governor’s budget in a year that is supposed to have more available state funding. WHAT? New York’s citizens need stronger, more vital libraries; cutting back those funds is a step back that we cannot let the legislature take.

It’s time to stand up for libraries. For growth. For stronger programs. For equitable access to technology and literacy education. For books in every format to reach every reader.

It takes a loud voice to move forward a legislative agenda that makes the magic of libraries happen. When you get an e-mail message from Jeremy Johannesen that has the words “legislative alert” in the subject line, don’t skip over it because you are busy right then. Open it, read it, and make a plan. Does it mean you making a phone call? Going to visit a local office? Alerting your advocates? The dependable ones or a new group that cares about our issues? Sending out messages to your regional e-mail lists asking for action, for activism?

It takes a loud voice, one with a positive message supplemented with YOUR stories to “educate” local, state and national legislators to make a difference for libraries and for everyone. WE can do that.

We need our strong core of advocates to show up and work for libraries, but if librarians are not making phone calls and visits, using NYLA’s Capwiz to “Take Action” with logical, positive arguments, a crucial piece of the advocacy puzzle is missing—and it is noticeable.

I have participated in the NYLA Library Advocacy Day for many many years and know that it makes a difference when NYLA shows up. Please make your plans to attend on Wednesday, February 26; it matters.  NYLA’s Legislative Committee has developed the 2014 Legislative priorities:

•    Fully fund NYS libraries at $102M as mandated in Education Law
•    Library Construction Aid & Matching Provisions
•    Exempt Public Libraries and Library Systems from the MTA Payroll Tax
•    Maintenance of Effort Waivers
•    Encourage Digital Literacy Education in Our Schools
•    Expand Access to School Libraries and Librarians
•    Economic Development Corporation Study on Economic Benefits of Public Libraries
•    Taxpayer Access to Publicly-Funded Research

We can bring our stories (when I spoke at the Central NY Library Resources Council legislative breakfast in Utica, an assembly legislative aide did not know there was no requirement to have an elementary librarian in every school!), our students, our patrons, and our trustees—anyone who is willing to visit their legislators with positive messages on the power of libraries. Need talking points and statistics? Take a look at this infographic, “Why You Should Support Your Public Library,” from StateStats:

I have also been part of the New York State delegation to National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) for the last five years; one of my goals this year is to double the size of the NY State delegation this year (May 5-6). Registration is open; register and then send an e-mail to Robert Hubsher, the long-time and experienced New York NLLD coordinator.  

In Washington, we get ALA briefings and bring our stories as we visit legislative offices together as a team of public, school and academic librarians. A train from Penn Station to Union Station is direct and affordable—Syracuse trains, Albany trains, Niagara Falls trains all go to Penn Station. Or car pool, fill vans with people who love libraries. We are one of the most populous states in the country and have been one of the smallest teams; we need to double the size of the NLLD delegation and take the energy of our vital NYLA legislative day to Washington to move our state’s library needs to the forefront of our legislators’ priorities. WE can do that.

If you can’t be in Albany on February 26 or Washington on May 5-6, look for information soon about Virtual Library Legislative Day both statewide and nationally. Your voice will matter.

With the addition of Mike Neppl as NYLA’s Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, we have the chance to take advantage of the tipping point where I see libraries right now. The stars are aligned and we can make a difference. Libraries have the technology and the rich collections in all formats to meet the recreational and aspirational needs of New York State’s people of all ages in all types of libraries.
All we need is funding and the ability to use the talent and vision of NYLA members in our libraries and library schools.  

Again, it’s time to stand up for libraries and WE can do that.