NLLD or VLLD: Time to “Take Action”


I am on my first train to get from Albany, NY to Washington, DC on a grey, chilly Sunday morning as part of the New York Library Association (NYLA)’s delegation. We will participate in the American Library Association’s National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) on Tuesday, April 24th.  I am fairly sure I will be the only school librarian from New York State there; it is really hard to get out of school for this, especially when our state school library conference is next week. It’s one of the advantages of working part-time  with some control over my schedule but I attended whenever I could while full-time after the experience in 2008 of “storming the Hill” (Capitol Hill) as one of the Youth Caucus presidents. AASL, ALSC and YALSA presidents and the three executives directors make up a team to visit key legislators (their education/library aides, actually) and educational associations with headquarters in Washington in a whirlwind day.

After that experience, I knew first-hand how important it is for federal legislators to hear us explain the somewhat-invisible but so crucial role of school librarians in students’ education. And to let them know how they can make a difference for literacy and education by supporting key library legislation: inclusion of school librarians in ESEA reauthorization, the Freedom of Information Act for more access to government information, LSTA support (which provides New York State with a suite of databases among other things), and no support of the cybersecurity bills in the 112th Congress unless new language improves protections for private communications. These are important to school libraries—and all libraries.  After a day of briefings tomorrow, librarians from each state will head to the Hill, librarians from all library types ready to talk about all library issues.

BUT, your voice needs to be heard. School librarians know the state studies showing the impact of school libraries on student achievement and what they mean to schools and students. Some legislators want data, others want stories. We can give them both.  I can tell the story about how amazing it was to hear author Steven Kellogg when he joined the New York delegation in June, 2010 who talked to a senator’s aide about sensing the difference on his author visits between a school with and one without an elementary school librarian–he can see the magic of the love of reading in a school with a librarian.  I can tell stories about students learning to evaluate information and to create new knowledge. And, from your desk, you can “Make Some Noise!”

Call, your legislators on NLLD/VLLD


Take five minutes to make a difference!

 You, too, can tell the stories, cite the research studies and take action by participating in Virtual Library Lobby Day. Do a bit of research (we are good at that) by downloading the briefs from ALA, going to AASL’s resources for talking points, looking at Deb Kachel’s Federal Legislation LibGuide,  going to the Act4SL wiki or Facebook page—using as many resources as it takes to give you facts and confidence.  The e-mail templates in the Colorado Association of School Librarians “ Survive and Thrive” guide from my last post are well worth a look for inspiration.

Stephanie Vance, the advocacy guru, recently did a webinar, “National Library Legislative Day: What to Know Before You Go.” that is linked on Deb Kachel’s LibGuide <>. Watch the whole webinar if you can, but here is my favorite slide from it, a checklist on how to effectively contact federal legislators:

Stephanie Vance's checklist for contacting federal legislators

Find your senators’ and representative’s office phone numbers and e-mail fromALA’s directory, take a look at their congressional web pages to see what issues they are interested in, then pick up the phone or write an e-mail and let them know what actions we need them to take to support our issues. Connect their favored issues to ours. You are a voter, you are an expert—they will listen to you. Ask fellow teachers, students, and friends to do the same with information you can give them. Everyone’s voices together on April 24th will make an impact.

ESEA reauthorization will get momentum for reauthorization eventually, maybe soon-and your federal legislators need to be school library supporters, even champions. Our students need school library language in ESEA.

You can make that happen.  Just “Make Some Noise!”


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.