The week of May 1, Citizen Advocate Sandy Somers and AzLA Legislative Chair Kathy Husser traveled to Washington D.C. for National Library Legislative Day. The event focused on nationwide advocacy for our libraries and each state had representation present to meet with individual lawmakers to speak on ALA and Arizona’s library goals.
The Arizona delegation was able to meet with staff from all nine House Districts and both Senators Flake and McCain. Funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) was discussed and many Arizona success stories were shared regarding STEM, makerspaces, and workforce literacy. The delegation emphasized the empowerment of Arizona Libraries due to an $186.6 million budgetary need from federal legislators in 2017-18. Arizona’s portion is $3.2 million of this funding and is utilized for library grants, professional development projects and trainings throughout the year. The upcoming appropriations vote for $27 million to support the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) funds was also noted during the visits. Both initiatives were endorsed by ALA, and the Arizona delegation encouraged a “yes” vote from lawmakers when the House and Senate voted that week.
Sandy shared her personal stories of her literacy tutoring twice a week with Valley third graders and the success of the Ultimate Play Day at the Scottsdale Public Library. Her ASU connections as the Assistant Director at the W.P. Carey School of Business in the Career Counseling office naturally aided the discussions for ESL, college placement, and the importance of beginning early with students to assist with a successful career and future economic development for Arizona.
The delegation also supported the ALA endorsement of strong net neutrality, which “protects the core principles of free speech online, education and innovation.” The conversations went very well at all 11 offices. Arizona libraries received positive feedback from the lawmakers’ staff, not only on the work we are doing in our different communities, but also how libraries can help the representatives with legislation using library resources and established community connections. An open invitation to host the local lawmakers’ constituency meetings at their district libraries was also encouraged. It was a busy but very productive trip for Arizona Libraries!
Kathy Husser is Chair, AzLA Legislation Committee.