Tag Archives: U.S. Congress

Oregon Librarians Visit Congress

13 May

Rep. Kurt Schrader with Oregon Librarians

Seven librarians from Oregon spent Tuesday, May 10 visiting the offices of all five Oregon Representatives and both Oregon Senators. These visits were conducted as part of National Library Legislative Day. I was privileged to be part of the visiting group as the President-Elect of the Oregon Library Association. Other members represented the breadth of Oregon libraries, including representatives from public, academic, and school libraries.

It was very gratifying to feel a strong sense of support for library issues from all seven offices. Regardless of party affiliation, district geography, or seniority, all Oregon’s members of Congress recognize the value of strong libraries for strong Oregon communities. Our state has been hit very hard by the economic downturn, and libraries are a rare public good available to all; library usage for internet access and job searching is up significantly over the past two years.

The American Library Association’s Washington (ALA) office held a briefing session on Monday to orient us to the key issues. Due to Congress’ current focus on budgetary and fiscal issues, many of these topics do not have active legislation at this time, but it was still important to raise congressional awareness of library needs and concerns.

On the funding side, one critical issue is the funding of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This funding includes monies distributed to each state on a population-based model. States use the money to support local library programs. In Oregon, LSTA funding supports a variety of programs including:

  • Statewide access to a variety of research and reference tools through local libraries of all types
  • The Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS), providing access to databases and learning tools for Oregon’s K-12 community
  • Grants and aid to Oregon libraries pursuing innovative and collaborative projects to improve the Oregon library community

ALA is asking Congress to fully fund LSTA at the $232,000,000 level it authorized in December. While the current budgetary situation requires careful scrutiny of all programs, library funding returns value to communities in ways that no other money can. The economic downturn has increased library usage and the funding should be held at least neutral to recognize this value.

Another critical issue is funding for school libraries. Unfortunately, as school funding is slashed, library staff are among the first casualties. This is despite research clearly linking future student success to the presence of strong school libraries, which must include a trained librarian or media specialist to ensure student learning. The No Child Left Behind legislation included no library programs. As it is reauthorized (as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), it is critical that Congress include language that authorizes and mandates school programs and best practices.

Library Champion, Rep. Grijalva

On Monday, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of ALA, awarded their 2011 Public Service Award to a champion of school libraries (and all library service), Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). Rep. Grijalva introduced the 2009 Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries Act, better known as the SKILLs Act.

SKILLs would establish a goal of having not less than one highly qualified school library media specialist in each public school. In addition, it proposes to increase student academic achievement through strategies such as improving the quality of teachers, school library media specialists and principals; and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom, highly qualified school library media specialists in the library and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools.

It was a true pleasure to meet Rep. Grijalva and hear his generous words about libraries as he accepted the award.

Oregon is very fortunate to have strong library supporters in Congress as well. I truly enjoyed my visits with them and the camaraderie of other Oregon librarians. Anyone else interested in ensuring strong, well-funded libraries should contact their members of Congress and ask for full support of these important library issues.


Support Your Local Libraries

8 May

Tuesday is National Library Legislative Day. Sponsored by the American Library Association, this is a day for librarians and library supporters to contact or visit their members of Congress to talk about the value of libraries.

Libraries are ever more essential in these tough economic times. People are flocking to our nation’s libraries for job and career information, small business research and e-government services as well as support for formal and informal education and lifelong learning. Usage is up everywhere as people try to get back to work. Families borrow more books, DVDs and other materials. Students of all ages seek digital literacy skills. Teachers and administrators recognize how libraries lead to improved student performance. Communities recognize that their libraries are the primary place – and often the only place in rural areas – to find online materials and databases with no-fee access to the Internet.

The federal role in library development and funding is targeted and unique. For example, state library agencies utilize funding from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to build shared services and collaborations that save funding while improving public services. The need for school libraries is demonstrated by the research showing that students perform better in schools with an effective school library program. Transparency and open government are best served when open access policies assure a strong Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the Government Printing Office (GPO) and public access to federally funded research reports.

Facing tough budget decisions, Congress should make equitable decisions and not cut library programs twice as much as other education and cultural programs. The people using public, school and academic libraries are using libraries more than ever – libraries that are also filling the gaps made when other agencies and services are cut.

In these tough budgetary times, Congress has to make hard choices about what services to fund. Libraries are more important than ever. If you value your public, school, and academic libraries, please take a moment and contact your Representative and Senators this week.

Wednesday Word of the Week: April 20

20 Apr

Some things are meant to move forward.

This week’s word is: PROGRESS

the process of developing or improving; forward motion – Macmillan Dictionary Online

It seems clear that a free and democratic society would be interested in developing and improving. In fact, the concept is explicit in the United States Constitution:

We, the people…in order to form a more perfect union…

Note the phrase “more perfect” in this preamble. In order to become more perfect, a nation must IMPROVE.

to make something better – Macmillan Dictionary Online

This clearly demands that we focus on those whose circumstances are currently worse and focus our improvements on them. This should include:

Unfortunately, as the links above demonstrate, the current trend in government is working against this progress.

What happens if there is no progress? One of two things: you might STAGNATE:

to stay the same without growing or developing – Macmillan Dictionary Online

  • Preserving budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens
  • Maintaining absurd campaigning laws that allow wealth to guide elections
  • Participating in two pointless wars while the Federal budget remains out of balance

Stagnation is certainly a big part of current government practice. The other alternative to progress is RETREAT:

the process of moving backward from a position or state attained – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

It is difficult to imagine how moving backward from achievements already attained can move us toward a “more perfect union.” Nevertheless, as noted above, many current actions in the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives are signs of retreat, not progress. In fact, a key line from many Tea Party sites is:

The Tea Party movement is instead, about reforming all political parties and government so that the core principles of our Founding Fathers become, once again, the foundation upon which America stands.

That’s right, this movement is all about returning America to the 18th Century, ignoring everything we’ve learned as a culture since then. By any definition, their agenda is not progress.

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