Street Scene with Capitol - Springfield - Illinois by Adam Jones

ILA Legislative Meetup

On February 1, I attended the Illinois Library Association’s (ILA) Legislative Meet-up at the Harold Washington Library. Both state and federally elected leaders were invited to meet with librarians from across the city. I wanted to learn more about our state library’s legislative priorities and have an opportunity to speak to elected officials face-to-face alongside librarians from a variety of disciplines.

This event, and others around the state which happen every year, allows attendees to sit around a table with an elected representative. It’s a welcoming environment where librarians are invited to share stories and ask questions of the members at their table.

I was excited to sit at the table of my newly elected U.S. Representative Jesús Garcia (IL-04). Unfortunately, weather or other circumstances kept many legislators from making it to the meeting, but three were in attendance: Senator Mattie Hunter (3rd District), Senator Heather A. Steans (7th District), and Representative Theresa Mah (2nd District).


The event focused on collaboration between institutions. The first half included presentations from successful Chicago projects. Jeanne Long, Executive Director of The Chicago Collections Consortium, detailed the work of over forty libraries and museums to preserve and promote Chicago history by providing access to their collections through a central, publicly available portal.

Kate Lapinski, from the Chicago Public Library, presented Chicago DigitalLearn. This program teaches introductory computer skills, like mouse and keyboard basics and advanced topics such as social media and buying plane tickets.

Legislative Priorities

Dianne Foote, Executive Director of ILA, spoke directly to elected officials and outlined ILA’s most important legislative priorities. While some of ILA’s priorities overlap with those of AALL’s advocacy efforts, others are specific to the state. Foote focused on three main categories:

1 – Library funding

Legislators were asked to sign 2020 “Dear Appropriator” letters seeking full funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant program.

LSTA is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and provides $5.5 million in funding to Illinois libraries. These letters circulated in March and April 2019.

2 – Net neutrality

On February 1, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case Mozilla v. FCC. Illinois has joined the case to restore net neutrality rules that were repealed in 2017. If you are interested in net neutrality, be sure to follow the results of this case, as future legislation will depend on it.  

While on the topic of broadband, Foote reminded librarians that they will play a role in the 2020 census, which will be the first to be completed mostly online. An accurate count is important for determining allocations of Congressional representatives and federal funding. College students are one of the most difficult to reach populations, so both academic and public libraries will be asked to partner in offering census resources.

3 – Copyright

The ILA thanked Mike Quigley (5th  District) and librarians who advocated for public access to CRS reports. In addition, the ILA continues to oppose the transfer of hiring authority of the Register of Copyright from the Librarian of Congress to the President.

Legislator Feedback

At the end of the program, the legislators in attendance were invited to respond. All thanked librarians for their wide-ranging work in their communities. Representative Mah, who has attended this event for the past three years, specifically recognized libraries’ work in welcoming and providing resources to immigrant populations. Representative Steans, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, spoke of her commitment to continue providing full library funding.

More Opportunities to Meet Your Legislators

I hope to have another opportunity to speak with Representative Garcia at AALL’s upcoming Day on the Hill. The event takes place July 12, right before the start of the Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. Participants will receive advocacy training with AALL’s Office of Government Relations before in-person meetings with elected officials on Capitol Hill.

If you cannot make it to D.C. for the Annual Meeting, watch for information on AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day or browse the Advocacy Toolkits available from both AALL and ILA. Both provide resources on how to develop relationships with your elected officials and which legislative issues are important to the library community.

Photo by Adam Jones used with CC BY-SA 2.0 license