Become an E-Activist Now!

What?!?! President Obama’s budget threw the Improving Literacy through School Libraries funds into one big literacy pot? It was JUST funded by Congress after two years of zero funding and now our chances of competing with the five other literacy programs get lower and lower. There is so much to be done!

Time to throw up your hands and sigh? I don’t think so!

Time to hone your activist skills, put on your Take Action hat, line up your talking points, phone numbers, and e-mails—and open Twitter and Facebook accounts if you don’t already have one? Yes, it is!

I often hear about both exercise and advocacy that “I just don’t have the time in my life.” I’m trying the 10 minutes, 3 times a day approach to exercise (I HATE to sweat!), and there are so many actions you can take in 10 minutes or less that can make a difference for your students and for all the other students in our state or country.

Be informed

The Washington Office keeps you updated and rallies support at crucial times by sending out alerts on the District Dispatch list (easy to become a member and receive them) and posting to every listserv it can, depending on us to use their Capwiz software to contact our legislators and to use Twitter, Facebook, and our own network of listservs to spread the word.  It works! One of my senators is now following ME on Twitter, and we stopped the SOPA bill that would have impacted intellectual freedom seriously.

In addition to District Dispatch and opening, reading, and taking actions to legislative alerts on state and national listservs (the AASLForum and LM_NET are great networks), you can be informed by following I Love, an ALA website and Facebook page designed for people who use and love libraries and set up for taking action on their behalf.

Twitter and Facebook library friends keep me informed about legislation and effective actions. The school library petition started by AASL President Carl Harvey is such a good example!

Add your voice

The ALA Washington Office staff is working hard right now to connect with legislators and their education aides to get that school library money pulled out of that big pot and more accessible for school library improvement. There’s a March deadline as the budget is formed, and they need visits NOW to each U.S. Senator’s home office (only Nebraska has completed theirs at last count; Rhode Island’s Jack Reed is already on board).

With Sen. Jack Reed and then ALA President Camila Alire at the 2008 NLLD

Put that e-activist hat on, go to your senators’ website to find their phone numbers and e-mails, check to find out if they are on Twitter, make appointments to see them (or send your advocates—students, parents, and community members). Tell the stories about students and school libraries (we all have them) that will make them pull the money out of the pot to once again have a dedicated funding stream to provide students with 21st Century learning.

Take action

Next week I head to Albany to participate in the New York Library Association’s (NYLA) legislative day to visit my local legislators in their offices to talk about libraries, focusing on NYLA’s legislative priorities that included school library input.

When I was working full-time in a school library, I took a personal day to be there during years that it was difficult to get a professional day. Now that I am part-time (there’s a story), I schedule my time around this trip. I don’t miss it (barring a blizzard) because I am most often the only school librarian in our delegation—and my legislators need to hear about school libraries’ impact on students while looking right in my face.

Photo op with Assemblywoman Janet Duprey from Northern New York

But most school libraries in New York can’t get out of school to be there in person. Instead, many visit legislators in their home offices and some invite legislators to visit their libraries, both VERY effective.

What will happen in Albany next week, though, is that when I walk into my legislators’ offices, their aides will look up and say, “We heard from a LOT of school librarians yesterday!”  They will have experienced a dose of e-activism. Our school library association (School Library Section of NYLA) is sending out an e-blast to our members directing them to the NYLA Capwiz linkto send e-mails to their own legislators. All but two states have used grants from ALA to have Capwiz software available from their websites to make it easy to be an e-activist (those two have other systems in place). All you have to know is your zip code

The year that New York State school librarians and their advocates sent over 2000 such e-mails the day before Legislative Day had a huge impact—and it took each person five minutes or less.

School Librarians Mary Ratzer, Paige Jaeger and John Monahan at the 2011 NYLA Rally

The same thing will happen with National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). As many librarians and their advocates as possible will be in Washington on Capitol Hill on April 23-24 to visit federal legislators—and Virtual Library Lobby Day (VLLD) will make it possible to participate from where ever you are.  Put those dates into your calendar with an “alert” to go to the ALA Washington Office web site to “Take Action.”

A long-term goal of both AASL and ALA is to get an effective school library program included in ESEA—it will take e-activism by school librarians and their allies, by you, to get that to happen. So, take 10 minutes or less to make a difference—and you don’t have to work up a sweat!

With Barb Stripling and David Karre and author STEVEN KELLOGG at the end of a long day at NLLD 201







Sara Kelly Johns About Sara Kelly Johns

Sara Kelly Johns ( is the school librarian at Lake Placid (NY) Middle/High School, and knows that she has the best job in the school. She is also an instructor for the Mansfield University School of Library and Information Technologies and speaks and writes about school librarian activism. Find her on Twitter as @skjohns or on Facebook.


  1. Sara — NYS might be listening: I went to Albany on Wednesday tovisit a few of the offices that we have had warm receptions from in the past. (Oppenheimer, Senate Finance Office, and my local Senator Roy McDonald) At most meetings Mary taught me to pick a handful of specific points to share knowing that people only remember 1 – 2 at best.

    At the Senate Finance committee I shared the push for the additional 4% that is our current advocacy “theme” and our school library systems messages. In the conversation, I mentioned that libraries benefit all people from Buffalo to Montauk Point. We leverage every dollar for the greater good. I pointed out that 50 million was spent on anti-tobacco advertising that services a small niche of people, and how that pales in comparison to the small amount we wish to have to service all NY’ers through libraries. (I know old lobbying rules were not to pit one cause against another, but this example has been my favorite over the last two years as it paints a picture of inequity…)

    News Flash!!! — Last night on the local news at 10:00 I heard that the governor has proposed reducing anti smoking campaign monies by 5 million. I let out a little woo-hoo! Not that it came directly from our visits, but at least it makes you feel that someone is listening!