Federal Advocacy Resources and How to Get Involved

Introduction

The Washington Office offers a variety of information resources about current federal issues that impact libraries. Each resource contains much of the same information and you can choose to access one or more of them to suit your needs. A description of the resources follows below along with how best to utilize them.

This guide was drafted by ALA's Committee on Legislation's Grassroots Subcommittee and ad hoc group (April 6, 2007) and can also be downloaded as a PDF file.

Resources

Advocacy 101 Video

District Dispatch  View press releases, library news, and virtually all vital information from the Washington Office.

Legislative Action Center  A series of short “TAKE ACTION” alerts are available here. Simply click on the alert of your choice and view the text of the alert. Then, using the email form provided on the website, send an email about the alert to your Members of Congress. You can copy the text of the alert into your email, but be sure to type in a personalized story or description about how the legislation you are writing about impacts your library.

National Library Legislative Day  Come to Washington, DC, and join hundreds of library supporters from across the country visiting Members of Congress. Share stories about libraries in your community and tell your Congressmen and women about the needs and accomplishments of those libraries.

Online Training with Advocacy "Guru" Stephanie Vance  Multiple webinars are available here, providing an indispensable way to learn about advocacy from one of the experts in the field, all from your computer. Each webinar is about a half-hour long and focuses on a different aspect of advocacy. Ms. Vance has more than 15 years of experience in Washington, DC, both as a lobbyist and a Congressional aide, holding positions such as legislative assistant, legislative director and staff director for various members of Congress.

ALA Office for Information Technology Policy Are you interested in the underlying information technology policy implications and research that is related to federal legislative issues? The Office for Information Technology and Policy homepage contains links to import studies and analysis about libraries.

@ala_wo_leginfo A twitter feed that exclusively broadcasts library-related legislative activity on The Hill. Feed your inner-wonk.

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Now that I have current information, what do I do with it?

Step 1: Getting Started 
Start advocating today. Send your members of Congress an email from ALA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC). The LAC is a central location where you can review updates about federal issues and then immediately email Congress to urge them to support libraries. This is an easy way for new and veteran advocates to get involved immediately.

Or…

You can call, email, or fax your member of Congress’s office. ANY method you use to contact Congress is fine as long as you are speaking out for libraries -- however, DO NOT send Congress a letter using “snail mail.” The new mail review process will prevent letters sent using the postal service from reaching the office in a timely manner. Before you contact your representatives office, be sure to check this helpful document, The Top 10 Things Elected Officials and Their Staff Hate to Hear (pdf).

Rep. Mark Kirk (left) with Danny Chapman during National Library Legislative Day 2007

Step 2: National Library Legislative Day
Now that you are reviewing updates about federal information using one or more of the sources above, and making contact with Congress using the Legislative Action Center or other method of your choice, why not go the extra mile for libraries and participate in National Library Legislative Day. This annual event held in Washington, DC, is a time for library advocates to meet with their Senators and Representatives to tell them about the great things happening at their library. Do budget or schedule constraints prevent you from making the trip to DC? Then organize a Virtual Library Legislative Day from your home state.

Step 3: Participate in FLLAN
Now that you are engaged in continuous communication with Congress as issues arise and during National and Virtual Library Legislative Day, it is time to take your advocacy for libraries to the next level by participating in the Federal Library Legislative & Advocacy Network (FLLAN). FLLAN is a rapid-response grassroots network made up of individuals and groups who have made a commitment to actively and immediately respond to calls for action related to federal issues. FLLAN advocates have also made the commitment to forward calls to action to other advocates who can help by contacting Congress. 

FLLAN is a flexible network made up of other networks and of individual advocates. For example, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) grassroots network is part of the FLLAN network, but individual academic librarians, who may or may not be part of the ACRL grassroots network, also participate in FLLAN.   

There is no one “right” way to participate in the FLLAN network -- as long as your group’s network (or as long as you as an individual) can commit to responding to contacting your Senators and Representatives when needed, you will be an effective part of the FLLAN network of advocates. Two suggested ways to get involved with FLLAN are:

  1. Look up the name of your state’s FLLAN contact in the online directory. Ask the FLLAN contact for your state to email FLLAN updates to you. If your state’s contact forwards the alert to listservs, ask to what listserv you should subscribe to receive the updates. If you find that you are not receiving updates check back with the contact for your state or send an email to Ted Wegner with the Washington Office and provisions will be made to send you the updates.
  2. Some ALA divisions have grassroots networks that draw action alerts from the FLLAN network to share with their members. For example, ACRL has a grassroot network that reprints some of the FLLAN alerts in the emails they send to the members of their division networks. So, for example, if you are an academic librarian, one way to be part of the FLLAN network is to contact your divison and ask how to be part of their network for federal issues.

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Related

How to Effectively Utilize the Washington Office (PDF)
Communicating with your member of Congress (PDF)
Steps to Setting Up a Congressional Visit Your of Your Library