Minnesota Library Legislative Day 2017!

Minnesota’s Library Legislative Day was Wednesday, Feb 22; and it was a great event!! If you have not been to one, please consider attending next year – it is so great to be in a group of library people all talking about the wonderful things libraries do. And legislators generally want to hear from us, because they like to know money is being well spent in their communities. So, it’s fun for everyone!!

This is a brief report on some of the activities of the day, to give other newbies an idea of what is like to participate in this event. We had a LOT of CMLE library people and Board members attending this year!! It was great to see people there, talking about all the great things in their libraries and library service across the state.

Thank you so much to everyone who was able to attend. And if you were not – you can always email, call, or write to your legislator! And thank you to the organizers of this event, who worked so hard to get everything together for it to be such a positive experience!

The “day” started on Tuesday evening, as several of us gathered at the Rice Street library in St Paul. We had the first legislative briefing, and had time to ask questions, share ideas on strategies, and to meet library people in person.

As I drove by the Capitol building that night, it was all lit up and looked beautiful!! (I’m stopped at a red light here; don’t photograph buildings while driving – safety first!) This was my first time visiting the Capitol building area, and my first Minnesota Legislative day; and this view just made it more exciting!

The next morning I took the train to the Capitol, and it was great!! It gave me a chance to look around, and takes away all the problems of parking and figuring out what to do with a car. (As a veteran train rider, I always prefer riding a train to taking a car – especially in an area that is likely to be crowded!) I chatted with a woman on the train about my library button on my bag; she was a library fan. That was a good start to the day!

Lots of tourists and people on a similar lobbying mission were stopped here and taking photos of the building. It is newly renovated, and though it’s hard to see in this small photo – it is just lovely! If you have not been lately, you need to check it out.

This is the entrance to the Judicial Center, where we met for our Legislative briefing on Wednesday morning (essentially the same as Tue evening, to be sure everyone had a chance to attend one). These briefings were so helpful, as they gave us all the information on specific bills to mention to legislators in our visits, handouts on the multitype systems, the broadband legislation, and more.

Our lobbyists were helpful in talking about what to expect in our meetings, what to emphasize, and how they foresaw the process of transforming library-positive ideas into bills and into laws. We gathered in this nice, large room to get all the details! People took notes, suggested ideas, and handed out materials to distribute. We all wore our “MN Loves Libraries!” buttons, so we proclaimed our message even as we walked around the campus between buildings!

It is easy to just complain about the work legislators do; but when you are there, and see the attention they – and their staff members – give to each group who comes to ask for money and resources and support, it’s impressive. Fortunately, selling libraries is usually pretty easy, and people tend to like us. But it’s important to be specific in requests, to be vocal about the benefits we bring, and to be concise – because everyone is always running behind!

Always thank people; our traditional Minnesota Nice skills come in handy as lobbyists for libraries. Libraries need support today, and will continue to need community support for years to come; so building relationships is always a good strategy.

I went inside to check it all out, and it continued to be amazing!! There is always a sense of excitement at being so near all the legislation happening in capitol buildings. And this one was filled with kids on school trips, library people ready to lobby, and assorted tourists. Several library people were here, and we chatted about the day’s adventures!

I managed to work in a visit to the State Law Library – and if you are in the area, you should also visit!! The staff was so welcoming, and made time to show me around to see their collection and all their treasures – and there were indeed treasures to see!

These photos are from the Marvin R. Anderson Special Collections Room. As someone with an interest in archives and documents, this was a real treat for me! You can see the basics of the small room in the photo on the right, and there are more shelves filled with books to either side. The photo on the left is of a page of the handwritten registration books they keep! Starting with the first lawyer to be admitted to practice in Minnesota, they all signed their names in these books as they were admitted. This page is interesting, because you can see a red line and a note next to the name of a lawyer who was later disbarred. (Libraries have the neatest stuff!!)

It was a very full day, with a lot of talking to people about libraries, the great things libraries do, and all the work we do for our communities.  At the end of it, I think we were all exhausted; but everyone seemed to have had a good time and had good responses.

Getting comfortable talking about money, and asking for money, is an important skill for all library people! Our communities (local, state, and federal) help to support us with money; we return that investment in our service to our patrons. Money spent on libraries has an ROI (Return on Investment) many times the value of what is given to us. So never feel like you are out of line for asking for more resources – we all do so much with what we are given that we are an amazing investment!!