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MALF's Carol Walsh Recaps National Library Legislative Day 2013

arol-walsh-blog.jpgI’m back from National Library Legislative Day in Washington, DC, readjusting to a short stack of work, and turning my attention to what’s happening at the State Capitol in terms of library funding and issues.

This is my third consecutive year advocating for libraries on the national level, and every year I learn something new about advocacy that I hope will sharpen my focus over time. This year, eight of us traveled to DC from the great state of Minnesota: Bob Boese, who recently finished a stint as interim director for the Northwest Regional Library System, was our state coordinator. Peter Pearson, president of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library; Melinda Ludwiczak, MELSA project manager and her spouse Thad Ludwiczak ; Jim Weikum, who wears two hats as director of the Arrowhead Library System and mayor of Biwabik and his spouse Kris Weikum; and Michael Scott, assistant director of SELCO. Geographic representation was a nice balance!

NLLD kicked off May 7 with a full day of briefings on key issues for libraries – and there were a lot of them, including appropriations, access to federal research, LEARN Act, school library programs, and Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Broadband, copyright, e-books, surveillance and privacy were additional issues.

Does this look like a daunting list?

Keep this in mind: For the most part, we’re all meeting with legislative aides, not our elected representatives. We have, at the most, a half hour. It would be impossible to plow through every issue given the time available and the number in our group.

So how do we adjust? We determine the most important library issues, both locally and to the state and run with that.

For example, continued funding for LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) affects public libraries. MELSA’s latest LSTA grant is being used to revamp the way summer reading programs have an impact on youth. ALA is requesting that LSTA be funded at $184.7 million for fiscal year 2014.

WIA is another important issue, and Minnesota is a pioneer in that regard. Reauthorizing WIA authorizes public libraries that offer employment, training and literacy services as ‘one-stop partners’. One-stops in Minnesota are called WorkForce Centers. Kit Hadley, St. Paul Public Library director, played a leading role in legislation that gave libraries a seat at the table of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council. Marlene Moulton Janssen, director of the Anoka County Library, has an advisory role with the GWDC. Libraries and WorkForce Centers are working together in many ways -- such as helping patrons find jobs, accessing MinnesotaWorks.net, showing patrons how to navigate the Unemployment Insurance system – and we thoroughly explained this to each aide we met.

Will you join us next year? Save the date: May 5-6, 2014 at the Liaison Hotel, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. For more information, see www.ala.org/nlld.

--Carol Walsh