General Tips for Working with Legislators

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Your legislator's time is valuable, but he or she appreciates constituent contacts. Here are some ideas for how to most effectively develop on ongoing relationship with your legislator while advocating on behalf of libraries. By the way, these tips work for meeting with any elected official.

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know the issues and the particular interests of your legislator. Keep a background file on your legislators, including special interests and personal profiles. You won't agree on all of the issues all of the time, but a legislator needs to know what constituents are thinking.

2. KEEP IN TOUCH. Write, call, or visit your legislators and their staff members to introduce yourself. Let them know who you represent and volunteer to keep them informed about your issues, their impact on your community and on the legislator's district.

Add the legislator's name to your mailing list and ask to have your name added to the legislator's mailing list.

Make sure the legislator receives notice of and invitations to special events held at your library. This serves as a reminder of your library's role in the community. Remind your legislator that attending these functions is an excellent way to meet with constituents.

Invite legislators and perhaps their spouses to tour your library. Show them exactly what your library does and how it contributes to community well-being.

3. BE CONSISTENT AND RELIABLE. Remember that official policy is set by the WLA Board of Directors. Make clear any differences between your opinions and the position of the WLA. Remember that WLA must be viewed as a credible source of information in order to be successful on behalf of libraries.

It is also not effective to mix discussion of your personal issues with discussion of library issues, or you will dilute your message and confuse the legislator as to your priorities.

4. GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. Give public recognition to deserving legislators through awards or at library functions to which your legislator has been invited. Always say "THANK YOU" for support of your issues. A personal thank you note is also very effective.

5. BE A PLAYER. Attend events, social and other types, at which legislators will be present -- not to lobby overtly, but to get acquainted and make them aware of you as an active member of the community. Even if you can afford to give only a small amount of money, attending fund raisers is an important part of our current political process.

If the legislator has been helpful to your library, get involved in his or her election campaign. People who give their time, and who can recruit others to campaign, are very important to a legislator.

6. TELL US ABOUT IT. Let WLA know about the concerns and interests your legislator has expressed, along with any commitment of support to library issues.

With thanks to Citizens for Missouri's Children

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