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OLA IMLS Response
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The Oklahoma Library Association has, like many other groups, fielded the concerns of its membership in recent weeks in response to the drafted federal budget.

OLA has responded with some key points:

  • The federal budget is, at this stage, a draft. IMLS has been zeroed out of the budget before only to have its funding fully restored in a later draft.
  • That said, there is a real threat to IMLS—and now is our time to advocate.
  • Congress will be in recess from April 8 – 23.

OLA considers this congressional recess an opportunity to play some offense. The group is encouraging its members to connect with representatives and senators, sharing with them how federal funds via IMLS impacts constituents. “Inviting legislators to participate in a storytime, or even just visit your library during peak hours, is a great learning opportunity,” says OLA president Melody Kellogg. “It is a time to change perceptions that linger from ‘that place I visited as a child,’ to the more accurate ‘innovative community center that connects constituents to the internet (among many other things) today.’” Now is the time to make sure leaders at all levels understand the modern library’s role in their communities, she says.

“Library visits are a win-win for legislators,” says Meaghan Hunt Wilson, OLA Legislative Committee co-chair. “It’s a great photo opportunity for the local paper or for social media. Library events get legislators out into the community connecting with the citizens they serve.”

Members can start by calling their congressperson’s district office. (See also http://cqrcengage.com/ala for more on contacting your congressman about IMLS.) Connecting with a scheduler or assistant to arrange a library visit during a legislator’s time in the district can be less intimidating—and more valuable—than librarians often think. Sharing examples of where federal funds are in action is a great jumping-off point. Walking a legislator through the library and illustrating the following scenarios can help to tie numbers on paper to real-world impacts:

  • Students or school classes using databases during school hours, for home-schooling, or after school;
  • Prep work for your summer reading program, with an explanation of how summer learning prevents the summer slide and readies teen volunteers for the job market;
  • ILL extending library resources beyond the local collection;
  • How IMLS grant funds have placed technology or highly-trained specialists in your building.

The more creatively and positively librarians can show their impacts, the more productive visits are bound to be. Librarians are not expected to be experts on the federal budget process—but may find that legislators are curious to learn more about what they do in the “Google Age” of information-seeking. OLA encourages its members to take photos and follow up after the visit with a thank you note and copies of those photos to share.

In the event a legislator is unable to make it into the library during recess, e-mails and phone calls as a private citizen are effective too. For librarians, using personal social media to explore and engage with the #SaveIMLS hashtag online is one way of voicing how libraries help constituents every day. OLA strives to set the standard for positive and meaningful dialogue on this topic.

 

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Oklahoma Library Association
1190 Meramec Station Road, Suite 207, Ballwin, MO 63021-6902
Phone: 800-843-8482 (press option 1) | Fax: 636-529-1396 | Email: ola@amigos.org

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