Legislation can only reflect what the people want if you and others take the time and trouble to inform legislators about what you want. Surprisingly, few people contact their elected officials. It may be difficult to realize that a single visit in person, a phone call or letter can make an impact on a legislator's views toward a piece of legislation but it certainly can and does. Remember, YOU are the library expert and you have valuable information and perspectives to impart.
1. Make an APPOINTMENT. Legislators and their staff members are busy, so extend them the courtesy of calling in advance.
2. THINK about what you want to say before you arrive. Review specific bills and background information on key issues provided by WLA or other sources.
3. SUMMARIZE your concerns in a concise manner. State your position clearly. Remember to be positive, enthusiastic, considerate and appreciative. Be someone your legislators or their staff would enjoy meeting with again!
4. SHARE THE COMMUNITY CONTEXT OF YOUR MESSAGE. Use personal stories about your library and its patrons in order to make your case. SUPPORT your position:
|* We serve X number of individuals (constituents) each week. They use education, information and reading services such as _____________.
|* We are doing our best to give citizens of our community (your district) the best possible bang for the library buck!
|* Utilization of our library, including the growing demand for electronic/computer access, has increased by X percent over the past X number of years. In addition, the cost of materials (books and other publications) has increased.|
5. TELL your legislator what you hope he/she will do. Tell what WLA's top priorities are.
6. LISTEN to your legislator's concerns and opinions. He or she may not always agree with you, and it's important to understand the message the legislator/staff is trying to convey. Your legislator is balancing many constituents' concerns and may not always be able to vote as you hope.
7. INFORM your legislator of opposing viewpoints he/she may encounter and any counter arguments you may have. Don't try to hide information.
8. BROADEN YOUR SCOPE OF LEGISLATIVE INTEREST. Consider asking open-ended questions to show your interest in the legislative process and to learn about other issues of concern:
|* Are you aware of any other library-related issues that have come to your attention, of which I may not be aware?
|* How do you see the legislative session unfolding? What are the main priorities of the legislature overall this session?
|* Going beyond library issues, what are the priority issues of the district as you hear from constituents?
|* Would you have any additional advice for us today on the subjects we have brought up?|
9. THANK the legislator for his/her time and interest. Tell him/her that you appreciate the efforts on your behalf. Invite the legislator to visit your library or meet with the board of trustees back in the district as your schedule may permit.
10. OFFER your expertise or assistance in the future.
11. FOLLOW-UP the visit with a call, letter or card. Make note of any additional information or your answers to questions the legislator may have asked. Keep in touch in order to build on the good will you've established by meeting with the legislator.
With thanks to Citizens for Missouri's Children