Working with Legislators

As part of Illinois Snapshot Day, the Illinois Library Assocation is encouraging libraries to develop a relationship with their local legislators.

Here are tips to get you started:

1.  Determine your local Representative and Senator.  You may have different ones for your library and your residence.  If that is the case, establish a relationship with all of them.

2.  Find the phone numbers and addresses for their legislative offices both in Springfield and locally.  Read your legislators’ biographical information and learn which committees they serve.

3.  Share your “Snapshot:  One Day in the Life of Illinois Libraries” information about your library with your legislators.

4.  Check for any legislation that may impact libraries and be prepared to tell them how that would affect your library.  This Spring Session will most likely focus on budget issues. In the FY2010 state budget, the Illinois General Assembly cut general revenue funding for all state library and literacy grants by 50%.  At a time when library usage is at its highest, Illinois libraries are being asked to face tomorrow’s needs with yesterday’s resources.

5.  Buddy up.  Call neighboring librarians who are in the same legislative district and make your visits together.

6.  Call the local office and make an appointment to visit your legislators.

7.  Visit the legislators, be on time, and bring your “Snapshot” information, library newsletter, and summer reading program information to keep them informed of what is going on at your library.

8.  Write a thank you note and send it to your legislators after your visit.  Briefly remind them of what you discussed.

9.  Invite your legislators to your library for an open house, celebrations, etc.

10.  Offer your library as a place for them to hold office hours or meetings with constituents.

11.  Watch the paper for local appearances of your legislators.  This could be a community breakfast, office hours, local parade, or a special meeting or hearing they are holding.

12.  Attend these types of events mentioned above and introduce yourself to your legislators, reminding them of the library.

13.  If you happen to get an extended conversation with them at one of these events, follow that up with a thank you note.

14.  Should your legislators be appointed the chairmanship of a committee or given a significant honor, send a short note of congratulations.

15.  During the legislative session monitor their votes on library legislation.  Thank them for votes in favor of library legislation.  If they voted no, explain how the vote could be detrimental to libraries and how you hope that they will support library legislation in the future.

16.  Be positive and courteous in any correspondence that you have.

17.  Once is not enough.  Don’t make one call or one visit.  Establishing a relationship with a legislator is an ongoing process.

*** These same steps can be used in building a relationship with your federal legislators.  Locate biographical information and committee assignments. You will also find a link to their congressional Web site that will give you more information.

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