“…[A] government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
Whenever I think I’m quite impossibly too busy to add another conference or professional development item to my “to do” task list, I am pleasantly reminded of how rewarding it is to continue to engage with all of the tremendously talented members of CALL/AALL and dig deeper with expansion of professional experiences. AALL Lobby Day 2019 in D.C. was a perfect example of an extremely worthy and rewarding event.
Introduction to Lobby Day
This year’s lobby day at the annual meeting was my first time as a participant, even though I had participated on the Government Relations committee for CALL during my first few years as a law librarian in Chicago. The call to participate was there (and thank you to Keith Ann Stiverson for getting more CALL members, including myself, to engage!), and we had a wonderful time meeting with folks on Capitol Hill.
Our CALL visits included coordinated meetings with our Illinois senators and representatives, such as legislative staff for Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin and Illinois Representative Danny Davis.
It was with some trepidation that we forged into the Lobby Day because of the political climate in Washington and current hot topics (such as the looming ICE raids) but I came away from the day of lobbying with a very positive impression of the impact that individuals might have on pending bills and was especially impressed by the attentiveness that we were received in each office.
Keith Ann Stiverson, Sally Wise, Sarah Sherman, and myself set out as the intrepid CALL volunteers and vigorously advocated for current pending library issues in Congress after receiving comprehensive lobbying training by AALL staff.
Learning to Lobby
I found it fascinating to learn how to effectively craft a pitch for the pending bills and create a personal narrative for the lobbying during the morning AALL session.
Lobbying is much like a theatrical skill that must be honed, and I was especially drawn to one of the speakers during the morning session who described the lobbying activities as akin to Hitchcock screenplays that effectively play the audience like a piano. For example, it is not wise to go into lobbying activities without some training on the art and skills of the activity or knowledge of the crux of your issues.
Key Legislation for Libraries
During the morning, we also earned about the key pending bills and their stages in the legislative process as well as some history and policy information for the bills. Those bills included the Save the Internet Act (S. 682), providing free access to PACER through the passage of the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, and full funding for the Library of Congress in the 116th Congress.
I left the morning training invigorated, prepared, and ready to put our preparation into effective lobbying action and was excited to tread the path of the Hart Senate Office Buildings and the Rayburn House Office Buildings for the first time.
CALL Team Members
Our group, which was led by the fearless Keith Ann Stiverson and very organized Sarah Sherman, met with all of our assigned Illinois senators and representative offices and made strides with illuminating the library issues with the legislative assistants and staff.
Highlights, of course, were seeing the offices of prominent Senators and House of Representatives staff and stumbling upon a few committee rooms and underground tunnels along the way. We shared lunch together in the Hart building like staffers and enjoyed a detour at the end of the day to our beloved Library of Congress.
I found it fascinating to also end the day with our fellow AALL lobbyists and recap the successes and valuable information from the day’s work plus write personalized thank you notes for our staff meetings. I’m already looking forward to my next Lobby Day and encourage you to join the CALL advocacy club!
As librarians in the land of Lincoln, we must unite and lend our legislative voice whenever possible to advance access to information in a digital age and preserve core tenets of law librarianship.