The thought of going to Springfield or Washington,
D.C. to speak with legislators about library issues can be intimidating;
however, speaking to a legislator in person is the best way to promote
your cause, according to NSLS Board President Bruce Ente.
Top Three Things You Need To Know About Visiting Legislators
Big numbers make a big impression.
Personal connection is key.
Have the facts—and the stories—to back up your position.
Power in Numbers
Because legislators have to represent their constituents, ten voices are
better than one, and one hundred voices are better than ten. The more people
attend Advocacy Day in Springfield or National Legislative Day in Washington,
D.C., the bigger the impression on our legislators. Also important is the
diversity of such a group: 100 public librarians speaking on the same issue
aren't going to have the same impact as a group full of public librarians,
teachers, or school librarians, parents, students...the more types of people
you can get to speak, the more broad-reaching you can show your issue to
It's All About the Personal Touch
Legislators receive a lot of mail, and while receiving
thousands of letters supporting a cause can make an impact, nothing beats
the difference a personal visit can make. It's human nature for us to
want to help people—especially
those we know and like—and legislators are no different. Advocacy
really revolves around building relationships, of getting to know
folks who might be helpful to your cause. And it's relationship-building
which is a series of small steps, many of which may seem insignificant
when taken one at a time, but which in the aggregate, over time, can add
up to something meaningful. Being able to reference a personal visit and
discussion is a much stronger lead in than simply sending a letter stating
you are a library supporter.
Put it in Perspective
No one enjoys listening to statistic after statistic. Stories will most
likely stay with a legislator longer than facts and figures alone. Choose
one or two key ideas or facts to share each year and help legislators to
understand the personal connection of what libraries do for their constituents.
For example, a mother telling her story of how taking her children to storytime
affects her life in a positive way could be more effective than rattling
off statistics about why youth librarians need funding.