Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Library..." - Albany Lobby Day 2010

Yesterday, on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2009 I participated in a state-wide effort to lobby on behalf of the libraries throughout New York in Albany, NY. This was my first visit to the state capital. From the city, it takes a little less than four hours to get there. I went with a large contingent of fellow library staff members from the New York Public Library. The library’s union, Local 1930, sponsored the trip by paying for the bus. We left in the early hours of Tuesday morning, just after 8:00 AM. People from all departments and levels of the library were encouraged and did participate, from librarians to clerical staff to even staff members from our Development Office. Since the issue of funding affects us all, it was nice to see that over fifty staff members were willing to pack in and tightly squeeze on a bus to fight the good fight and restore our library budget for the next fiscal year.

The library’s department of Government and Community Affairs helped to organize the trip. We were divided up into ten different teams. There were four or five of us in each group. I was assigned to Team 9. Each team had at least three meetings with state representatives, most of them New York State Assembly Members. I was assigned to one of the few groups that had the opportunity to meet with one of the state senators. Unfortunately, none of the representatives were actually in the offices at the time my group went to go see them. We did meet with their legislative aides to implore for the library’s annual budget. I met specifically with the aides for assembly members Naomi Rivera and Peter Rivera, followed by an afternoon visit to Senator Bill Perkins’ office. My specific part of the presentation was to highlight the documents we provided for the representatives, specifically one which showed the increase in circulation and visits during the last fiscal year and yet another one that lists a breakdown of how the budget cuts will ultimately negatively affect library service throughout the library’s system.

Our group crossed path with many other groups from other libraries. It was nice to see an equally large group of library staff members from the Queens Borough Public Library. Our bus arrived too late for us to properly participate in the morning rally that was held by the New York Library Association, but I made sure to stop by the booth and talk with some people after my first lobby meeting. The entire experience was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Honestly, it was a little intimidating. And I wasn’t even talking to the representatives themselves! Overall, I’m glad that I got the opportunity to do this. It’s important to keep politicians informed of what the library is and what the library does. In many cases, the legislative aides were unfamiliar with a lot of the services that the New York Public Library provides. Many of them took notes while we were talking, which I found very encouraging. I feel like I helped make a difference. I look forward to hopefully attending the lobby effort next year as well.

~Ryan P. Donovan is a senior librarian with the New York Public Library. He occasionally blogs for You can read his personal blog here.

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