Advocating for our patrons
By: Lisa Hoover
I recently had the pleasure to attend the New York Library Network’s Legislative Advocacy Day in Albany. “Each year library advocates from across New York State converge on Albany to voice their support for funding and policies that benefit libraries,” according to NYLA. This year I was one of them!
My boss and I drove down the day before and attended the New Yorkers for Better Libraries gala, which included a cocktail hour to mingle with colleagues and politicians, followed by a dinner and talk by Maya Rook regarding librarians in pop culture, which was amazing. Rook used the lens of movie characters to discuss how librarian stereotypes have been reinforced or challenged in Hollywood and, by extension, society. Rook’s talk bounced from It’s a Wonderful Life to Storm Center to Ghost Busters to It to Party Girl to a Saturday Night Live sexy librarian spoof. Sadly, she didn’t address my favorite pop culture librarian – Evelyn O’Connell in The Mummy (I am a librarian!). This was a really fun way to talk about how society views (and values) librarians. Definitely a highlight of the visit for me.
The next day we made office visits to politicians to emphasize the importance of adequate library funding and to ask for support for specific library-related bills. This year’s legislative priorities included requirements for trustee training, access to e-books, and access to certified school library media specialists.
The importance of e-books for all has been well covered by Kelly Bilz. The NY Senate Bill “relates to requiring publishers to offer licenses for electronic books to libraries under reasonable terms.” You can support the bill right on the Senate’s website.
The school library bill would require all school districts to maintain a school library in every elementary and secondary school and employ a certified media specialist for each library. NYLA’s library packet points out that school libraries are often the first chance children have to experience a library. Making sure all students have access to a library and a certified librarian helps create equitable access to print and non-print materials. Certified librarians are critical to helping students develop information literacy skills and the ability to think critically about information and the world around them. Giving students a strong early education in these areas will help prepare them for high school, college, careers and civic engagement. NYLA also cites evidence that “students who attend schools with certified school librarians and quality school library facilities ‘perform better on standardized tests and are more likely to graduate, even after controlling for school size and student income level.’” (Coker 2015)
Overall, going to legislative advocacy day was a really positive experience. I think it is important for librarians to speak up about the importance of libraries and the needs of our patrons. Many of our patrons – especially in school libraries – can’t speak up for themselves about what they need. In today’s fiscal climate, I think we need to speak up to make sure we can continue to serve our patrons’ needs. If your state has a similar advocacy day, I’d definitely recommend taking part!
Lisa Hoover is a Public Services Librarian at Clarkson University and an Adjunct Professor in criminal justice at SUNY Canton. In addition to her MLS, Lisa holds a JD and an MA in political science. She began her career as an editor and then manager for a local news organization, adjunct teaching in her “spare time.” She teaches courses in criminal procedure, criminal law and constitutional law. She is passionate about 1st Amendment issues. She recently began her career as a librarian, starting at Clarkson University in June 2017 teaching information literacy sessions and offering reference services. Lisa and her husband Lee live in Norwood, New York with their cats Hercules, Pandora and Nyx and pug-mix Alexstrasza (Alex). Find her on Twitter @LisaHoover01.