NYLA Advocacy Day Reflection

Check out Jessica Bechard’s reflections on NYLA Library Advocacy Day held on March 2, 2016!

 

Jessica Bechard

March 20, 2016

 

                                                  Librarians Can Be Loud

 

A week before Library Advocacy Day, NYLA Executive Director Jeremy Johanssen met with the Public Libraries class to explain this year’s goals. After that orientation, I felt adequately prepared for Library Advocacy Day. Our funding goals are ambitious but reasonable. In addition, advocating for legislative changes complements the request for increased funding.

The day began with an impressive number of librarians trying to get through security into the Legislative Office Building all at once.

Two of my classmates and I attached ourselves to the Upper Hudson Library System group and followed them around for the morning. Tim Burke, the director of UHLS, led the group.

My colleagues and I made our way to the Capitol building where we met with Neil Breslin’s Chief of Staff. I was pleased to see a number of familiar faces around the table, including my own library director, Scott Jarzombek.

In this meeting, the legislative goals were discussed heavily, including the importance of school librarians at the elementary level. Because there is a tax cap on schools, they are having trouble with budget increases and are cutting non-mandated programs, such as school libraries.

Another discussion which did relate back to funding was the need to make public libraries ADA compliant. For this to happen, library construction aid needs to be raised from its longtime stagnant level of $14M.

The group left this meeting and immediately made our way back to the LOB for a meeting with Peter Lopez’s staff. It quickly became clear that we weren’t all going to fit. The group spilled out into the waiting room and into the hall. I managed to make it into the meeting room, standing room only. This image of delegates spilling out into the hallway illustrates just how many people were in these meetings and also that there were far more of us than anticipated.

In this meeting, we discussed our desire to be treated on par with schools. As our hashtag proclaims, libraries are education. Schools serve children, but adults have nowhere to go to meet their educational needs if there aren’t adequate and accessible public libraries.

After this meeting, it was time for the rally. Imagine 400 librarians holding a pep rally inside a hotel lobby coated in marble countertops. The speakers’ passion for libraries almost rivaled our own. The crowd cheered in response. I found myself wishing I had a cowbell.

Library Advocacy Day was one part convincing politicians that what we’re doing is important and deserving of their support and one part being told by politicians that what we’re doing is important and they’re going to give us their support. But there is a different between pledging support and actually giving it. The results of this year’s advocacy remain to be seen.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti said during his address, libraries and librarians are the “frontline fighters against isolation, illiteracy, and inequality.” Sometimes it’s enough to know that what we do is helping people. Sometimes it’s nice to be acknowledged.

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