Today was the day. Apparently this day happened to be scheduled after a short holiday for the legislators, so all but one, Kissell, couldn’t make it to actually speak with us.
CORRECTION: When talking to the other groups afterward, turns out that Kissell didn’t show up.
We had two large groups for Senators Burr and Hagan. The aide for Burr was really nice and asked questions and seemed really interested. Then we broke up into smaller groups for the House members. My group had 7 people in it and we went to speak with the aides for Patrick McHenry, Sue Myrick, and Heath Shuler. When we were introducing ourselves during the meeting for McHenry, I talked about getting my MLS and how libraries are a changing organism and they become whatever the community needs them to be. (goal accomplished!) I felt the aide was friendly and accessible, but unfortunately she said that McHenry wasn’t signing any letters, which means he won’t be advocating for our causes. After our appointment, for which we had to stand in the hall, he actually passed by us. Jean and Dan talked to him and Jean basically said that libraries need more money and he said that money is hard to come by (something to that affect) and briskly walked off. I remarked to Jean afterward that he must be embarrassed that he couldn’t make time to see us but we just saw him in the hall, but she said no he wasn’t….and she was right.
We got done early and stood outside to wait for our next appointment. This is where I fell in love with DC.
Our next appointment was in an annex of the office so we had proper seating. Sue’s aide was fairly new and said she didn’t know anything about libraries and their issues so we basically got to educate her on what we do. I felt she was a little aloof or closed off, but she got kudos because she was the only one who took notes.
The last appointment, I felt, was the most successful, BUT Shuler is retiring so he won’t be signing anything either. It was the most successful because his aide was incredibly receptive and at the end he told us his personal experience with his public library as a kid and how a member of his family is a librarian so that was a success. Again though, he wasn’t going to be there that much longer but we talked about keeping up with him and whomever he works for next.
Our coordinator has a friend who works at the Library of Congress, so we went there for lunch! I was super excited! We had a lot of time so I wanted to look around but time got away from us and we had to get to the Capitol for……
Our photo op with Senator Burr himself. It was kind of a let down for me because he took the picture then ran, but a member of our group Brandon, also an MLS student, managed to hand him some of our material. Success!
Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I hope to do it again next year! I loved feeling like I was making a difference and getting a peek into the political world. It’s different than I thought. At the top level, it’s exactly what I thought: officials who are far removed and, probably because of the nature of their position, don’t care as much. But at the baser levels, as I said in my previous post, things are run by people my age and younger. Very inspirational and it was great to feel like I can do something.
Side note: I now want to move to DC. Library of Congress, please hire me!