Discovery, Advocacy, Leadership
November 21, 2016
Pattie Piotrowski, University of Illinois Springfield
Excerpted from remarks by ILA President Pattie Piotrowski at the opening session and membership meeting of the 2016 Illinois Library Association Annual Conference
Has there ever been a time when libraries have not been meeting one challenge or another? We are always talking about opportunities and trying not to dwell on the dark side of life. Well, it’s been one of those years yet again.
In recent times, we’ve seen fewer school librarians in elementary, middle, and high school libraries than ever before, public libraries reeling from state cuts, local taxes and failed referendums, and higher education facing a lack of state funding for grants to college students and reduced funding for state universities.
But we won’t dwell on the bad news, because this is the time for us to be taking opportunities in hand. The Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, a continuation of the previous No Child Left Behind legislation, is federal funding for schools that, for the first time, makes specific mention of school libraries. But it will take all of us — not just teachers and school librarians — but all of us, to talk to our legislators to make sure that funding reaches libraries.
Public libraries are back to the polls this election season and next with referenda, and they too need support from their patrons, their legislators, and local businesses because they play a vital role in their communities.
This fall, state legislators are heading back to Springfield to continue working on the state’s finances and a budget that will pick up where the stopgap funding, which ends on December 31, 2016, leaves off. We need to encourage our state leaders to put party divisions behind them and find unity on a state budget.
Our conference theme of discovery — learning about an issue or an idea; advocacy — supporting and fighting for others to embrace an idea; and leadership — helping others find their way to discovery and advocacy, is what we do as librarians. We can’t and shouldn’t turn away from our roles in our libraries, in our communities, and in our profession. We need to be discovering, advocating, and leading; it is at the core of who we are, and what we do, as librarians.
This spring there will be seven, yes, seven, locations around the state where we will be gathering local legislators and their staff to meet with us, our supporters, our trustees, and our Friends groups to discuss library issues of importance to us all. Locations and registration information are available on the ILA website at www.ila.org/events/legislative-meet-ups. We encourage you to participate in these events and continue to advocate for libraries of all types.
I want to remind you how valuable all of you are to ILA as members. Illinois has one of the most successful library associations in the country — I could argue the most successful — but nevertheless, as library associations fight for membership and survival, ILA is succeeding, and that’s very much because of you. This is your organization, and we depend on each of you to be involved in order to continue our success. Here’s what ILA does for you and its membership:
- We are a publisher of content, publishing important information on Illinois laws, standards for libraries, and many other topics to keep librarians current. ILA also publishes the iREAD summer reading program, which has been adopted by other libraries nationwide and around the world. While we are fortunate that iREAD produces significant revenues for the association, it is our membership that continues to develop and contribute to this amazing program and its products.
- I previously mentioned the legislative meet-ups being
held around the state, and ILA not only arranges these opportunities for us to advocate with our legislators, but assists with providing information from Springfield and Washington, DC, that is critical to libraries. Not just budgets and funding, but core issues such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), open meetings, and intellectual freedom. ILA also sponsors a delegation and assists with National Legislative Day in May as well, and provides opportunities to speak with our federal representatives.
- ILA holds an amazing conference each year, but they also support additional workshops and special events throughout the year for support staff, trustees, for youth service librarians, and others.
- Most of all, ILA is a network for you to learn from your colleagues in all types of libraries. This network makes us all more valuable to our communities and our users.
To continue our success, here’s what you can do for ILA:
- If you’re already involved, huge thanks. If you’re on a committee, stay involved with its meetings and activities. If you’re a member of a forum, reach out to the rest of your group with a new idea. If you don’t belong to a forum…join one! There are forums for academic librarians, library trustees, public librarians, reference services, technical services, young adult services, youth services, and a new marketing forum. Something for everyone, and all made richer by your participation.
- The last thing I ask is: talk about ILA with your colleagues, co-workers, and trustees. Explain to them why they should be a member. Bring them along to a workshop or forum meeting. An organization is only as strong as its membership. Help us stay strong in Illinois libraries.