Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For New Yorkers: Members of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries visit state legislators

Today I made my first visit to state legislators in Albany, NY. Member of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, along with Regent James Dawson and staff of the State Library [including State Librarian Janet Welch and Jeffrey W. Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education] visited at least 12 members of the Assembly and State Senators or their staff. I met with:
  • Mr. Chris Fowler, staff member of Assemblywoman Joan Christensen (119th Assembly District) [my representative in the Assembly]
  • Assemblyman John McEneny (104th Assembly District)
  • Mr. Steve Long, staff member of Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito (116th Assembly District)
  • State Senator John DeFrancisco (Senate District 50) [my representative in the Senate]
  • Ms. Kate Hogan, staff member of State Senator John Flanagan (Senate District 2)
Information on the funding request for 2008 - 2009 proposed by the NYS Regents, which we referenced during our visits, can be found here.

Tuesdays are "lobby day" this time of year, so there were many people in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) and State Capitol trying to see their legislators. Not only did that mean lines to get through security and crowded elevators, it also meant that legislators weren't just hearing from us about the state budget; they were hearing from many others (and that was just today). If also meant that space was at times a premium. One of our meetings (with Fowler) had to be held in a hallway because another group was meeting in the office.

What stood out to me today?
  • Besides the numbers, legislators want to know the impact of the potential funding.
  • Stories about the impact of the lack of funding are helpful.
  • Meaningful statistics help such as the average cost for all children and young adult hardcover books was $21.60, yet the governor's budget for school library materials is $6.25 per pupil.
    • Here's another statistic that made people stop and think -- New York ranks 41 among the 50 U.S. states in per capita spending on statewide Internet resources in 2006, declining from the rank of 35 in 2005. New York lags behind other states including New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina in providing state support for statewide Internet library services.
  • One legislator suggested that we present information from businesses and the impact NYS libraries have had on them. Economic development is important in NYS, so examples that demonstrate that library services are helping economic development would be useful.
  • Legislators remember when large groups have come to advocate for their concerns. I have heard that many bus loads of people come to Albany for Library Lobby Day. Coming as a large, recognizable group helps. There is power in numbers.
    • Now we need to get library users in NYS to visit their legislators in their district offices or in Albany -- in large numbers -- in order to advocate for library support.
  • Stories really help. Given that "a picture is worth a 1000 words," I think photographs that illustrate construction needs could be very powerful as well as photographs that show people using library facilities, people crowded into inadequate library space, etc.
    • I wonder if a library could do a time-lapse video that showed the foot traffic and usage that it gets? Or video of people talking about library resources (the good and the bad)?
Tomorrow I have a two-hour meeting with members of the State Education Department to talk about digitization. (I am representing the Regents Advisory Council.) The fact is that New York State does not yet have a statewide digitization program. (Another place where we are lagging behind.) After that, it's back to Syracuse. I hope the snow ends by then!

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