This year’s Tennessee Library Legislative Day (TLLD to the cool people) was a success in many ways. We had 189 library supporters who signed up and paid their $25. Those actually attending included 79 library staff, 28 trustees, and 25 friends. About 80 legislators signed up; about 60 actually attended. Our speaker, Marci Merola from ALA’s Office for Library Advocacy, was very well received. The emcee was charming and humorous.
I see three goals for TLLD. The first is to build community and collaboration. In this we were successful. Collaboration started from the beginning, since TLLD is jointly sponsored by Tennessee Library Assn, Friends of Tennessee Libraries, Tennessee Assn of School Librarians, and Tenn-Share. Moreover, the attendees build community by reconnecting with folks we may see only twice a year. We eat together; we meet together; we eat together again! Our library folks really take this seriously. Almost half came despite not getting any support from their libraries or friends groups.
The second goal is to educate ourselves about issues and legislation that affect libraries. The TLA Legislation Committee put out the call for library issues that local and state governments were dealing with. We received word about a number of issues, some that we were not aware of. The Committee then tried to learn as much as we can about the issues and then to inform the TLLD attendees with an abridged version of what libraries need to push for.
The third and, perhaps, most important goal of TLLD is to educate the state legislators, and this is where we are not effective. We have two venues for legislator education. One is the TLLD luncheon – where legislators sit with their constituents, talk, and take pictures. Not a lot of advocacy goes on at the luncheon, but the legislators are at least talking to library advocates.
The other venue comes in the afternoon of TLLD, when we keep appointments with the legislators who represent us. The problem is that only 56 of the TLLD attendees had set up appointments, considerably less than half. We hope that the other attendees learned something about the problems and issues at the state level, but if they don’t communicate that knowledge to legislators, they are not really advocates. And advocates are what makes TLLD effective.
So, what should we do? The short answer is to keep our members and advocates informed and to switch our orientation to emphasize advocacy rather than community.
What TLA and its Legislation committee need to do is to use CapWiz efficiently. CapWiz is provided through TLA by the American Library Association to alert our members and advocates of important local, state, and national issues, especially when we want our folks to contact one of our public servants. On CapWiz we need to provide easier-to-read and -understand explanations of library issues. Most current explanations from ALA and other sources are too dense and too long. We also need to make advocacy through CapWiz easily enough that more people will contact their representatives.
What our members and advocates need to do is become more involved. The TLA Board and the TLA Legislation Committee cannot accomplish much without your help. We need you to contact your legislators to help TLA be effective and we need you not only to attend TLLD but also to meet with your legislators.
Most of us have heard of Pareto’s 80/20 principle, which can be applied to many things. In an organization the idea is 80 percent of the work gets done by twenty percent of the people. We need you to swell up that percentage to make TLA and its members and advocates more effective.
Share your comments and suggestions on how to get involved by posting them to the "Every Day Is Library Legislative Day" thread on the TLA Forum site http://www.tnla.org/forum.cfm