Advocating for Libraries
Tips for talking to your legislators
“Don’t overestimate what legislators know (or understand) about your cause. Be ready to educate them each legislative session, and do so in engaging ways. Legislators are busy people who get a lot of information thrown at them, often about unfamiliar subjects and issues. Make it simple for legislators to absorb—and remember—your library’s story and why it’s important to their constituents and your state. For example, we have created eye-catching brochures and infographics that clearly illustrate facts, statistics, and issues in a way that is easy to understand and retain. And these materials can be customized with data about a legislator’s district or a particular part of the state.
Research your legislators. Focus your efforts on senators and representatives whose stated goals and interests align the best with the library mission. For example, one of our agency’s strategic goals concerns workforce development, which is also a stated priority for one of our key legislators. In our correspondence with this legislator, we demonstrate specific library and agency programs, services, and assistance that the community uses to spur workforce and economic development. We also include a success story that highlights the issue and the effect the agency and library have on the topic and the community. The story personalizes the subject and makes it more relevant and memorable. And we customize a version of a brochure or infographic to reinforce the topic.
Tailor your message. Find out what messages might resonate with the people who have control over the purse strings and tailor a pitch to each one. This can go a long way toward securing the funding you’re looking for. And be prepared to share that targeted message—anywhere. If you unexpectedly encounter a legislator—maybe in line at your favorite coffee place—introduce yourself and bring up the library.”