Accountability and Advocacy on the Hill, and at 23rd and Lincoln

Oklahoma Librarians in Senator Tom Cole's Office
Oklahoma librarians and fellow library advocates presented U.S. Representative Tom Cole with an Oklahoma Library Association Resolution, thanking him for his support of the federal Library Services and Technology Act. The presentation was made in May during National Library Legislative Day. Left to right: Paul Gazzolo with the Corporate Committee for Library Investment; Kathryn Lewis, Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology at Norman Public Schools; Representative Cole; Lisa Wells, Director of the Pioneer Library System; Kim Johnson, Director of the Tulsa City-County Library System; Oklahoma Department of Libraries Director Susan McVey; Gavin Brooks, American Library Association Washington Office; and Tim Miller, Director of the Western Plains Library System.

Every January or February, ODL Director Susan McVey and Deputy Director Vicki Sullivan head to the State Capitol Building to meet with the Oklahoma Senate and House appropriations committees to report on past agency accomplishments and to answer questions about the ODL Budget Request, which was submitted the previous October.

During the hearing, we share our successes and expenditures in a way to demonstrate the agency’s accountability to our lawmakers and the state’s taxpayers. Some of the information we put together is used by Oklahoma Library Association members for advocacy purposes as they visit with their legislators.

Later in the spring (usually in May), Director McVey heads to Washington, DC with a group of Oklahoma librarians for National Library Legislative Day to talk about library funding and policies with our U.S. Reps and Senators.

We thought we would share some of the information pieces we assembled for our hearings and meetings with state and federal lawmakers this past spring.

Documents for our State Capitol presentations…

Each year, ODL puts together a PowerPoint presentation for the House and Senate committees. It includes our agency mission and history, budget request, expenditure breakdown, the impact of past State Aid cuts on public libraries, the impact of Literacy Grant cuts, and information on how we use federal dollars. Check out this year’s PowerPoint here.

To illustrate the importance of State Aid to Oklahoma public libraries, we put together a flyer with Quotes from the Field on the importance of these grants to communities.

The legislature likes to see state agencies working with partners to accomplish services, and services to young people are high on everyone’s list. This ODL + 51 Partners flyer showed how we worked with others to serve almost 125,000 young Oklahomans last year.

Those of you following this year’s legislative session won’t be surprised to learn ODL received extra dollars for mandated pay raises for employees (the first raise in at least ten years for many state employees). The agency received a 2.88% appropriations increase—about $125,000 more than the previous year. There will be some dollars left over from the pay raises to add some additional funds to State Aid. Total state appropriation for ODL went from $4.357 million to $4.483 million.

What we took to the Hill…

Our U.S. reps also like to see state agencies join with private and non-profit partners to get the most out of federal dollars, so we also provided them with a flyer on how we join with partners to serve young Oklahomans.

One of our biggest federal projects, of course, is the statewide  databases that provide current reference information and millions of full-text articles to every library in the state. We provided a map showing the number of schools and libraries in each Congressional District that have signed up for the databases. During 2017, Oklahomans viewed full-text magazine and journal articles on the statewide information resource more than 20 million times.

To communicate the impact of federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds on local communities, we put together information for each Congressional District which highlighted some of the programs making a difference in our state. (Note: Due to the resignation of District 1 Representative Jim Bridenstine to become NASA Administrator, we did not prepare a District 1 report this time around.)

Finally, we want to share the Oklahoma Library Association Resolution thanking District 4 Representative Tom Cole for his support of federal library programs and funding.

National advocacy efforts were successful, with Congress increasing funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services by $9 million (including $5.7 million more for LSTA) over the previous year.

We hope you find these information pieces enlightening. Feel free to use any of this information to communicate with the stakeholders and decision makers in your community.