I was honored to be asked to attend National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. I’m not sure who gave my name or how that transpired, but I received an email asking if I’d like to go and I wasn’t about to turn it down. It’s an amazing opportunity to get involved in the advocacy part of what librarians do. Library Legislative Day is April 23rd and 24th and it mainly consists of the following:
Monday, April 23rd: A full day of sessions regarding the issues that have been chosen as a focus and how to talk to the legislators so that it makes a difference
Tuesday, April 24th: Legislator appointments and photo ops with the senators
We were very lucky to get our trip funded by the North Carolina Library Association, so I am grateful for that. I’m sure because of the lack of funds, we weren’t able to attend the full day of sessions, but we arrived into D.C by bus just in time to make it to the ALA reception at the Dirksen building on Capitol Hill. While there, I met a school librarian from Kansas who told me a little about what was said earlier in the day. They had the sessions as I mentioned above, but what was of interest to me was she said that there were a few library school students sitting in front of her and during the question period, they asked what they were able to contribute as library school students. I have been supremely nervous about the very same thing, so it eased my worries to know that we can offer a perspective of why we chose the profession to begin with rather than other “more lucrative” careers. (I put more lucrative in parentheses because librarianship is more lucrative in its own right. Just not necessarily monetarily so) So she said just to tell whomever we’re speaking with about that perspective and why librarianship is important to me now and share personal experiences. I really liked hearing that I did in fact have something to give to this experience.
Also earlier in the day, Jennifer Hanft, who is an academic librarian at Meredith College, was talking to me about the meetings as well and as we will be meeting with the aides rather then the legislators themselves, she said not to be nervous because we are the experts about librarianship compared to them. That was also a helpful way to look at it.
After that encounter, I set out looking for other library school students at the reception. I went up to a guy and a girl who looked young and asked if they were students. They were, but they were interns for Senator Warner from Virginia, not future librarians. Even so, it was great talking with them and it was inspiring to see and hear that there are young people, besides myself, who are doing great things. I sometimes feel disheartened to see that some are just worried about where the next party will be and although it’s great to have fun, there are other important things going on as well. Another thing I liked was when they said that it’s a cool environment because the people running our country are all under 25. I was shocked because all you see are older, Caucasian males and here I am where they are saying that the wheels are turning because of the young people. I love DC. I knew I liked it before, but now I am definitely onboard. 🙂
Overall, the reception turned out to be a great time. The “heavy hors d’oeuvres” were the opposite, but there was free wine and a smattering of dedicated librarians and library advocates, so good times.
Tomorrow is the big day and I’m still nervous but also more excited. There will be plenty of experienced people in my group, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I have told myself though that I won’t just sit on the sidelines though, that I will talk and do something since I’ve been given the chance to do so. Wish me luck!!