Friday, May 17, 2013

Director Does DC!

Last week, I, along with other members of the Mississippi Library Association and the Mississippi Library Commission went to Washington, DC to participate in National Library Legislative Day.

Visits with each of our Congressional delegates and aides were arranged. In our visits, we stressed the need for continued funding for LSTA (Library Services Technology Act). These federal funds are passed down through the Library Commission to libraries across the state. Learn-A-Test is funded with LSTA funds; MAGNOLIA is supplemented with LSTA funds. Other grants are awarded to libraries with LSTA funds. Mississippi receives almost $2 million through this act.

Also important is the continuation of the ERate program. Look on your phone bill and you'll see a charge for Universal Services. Those are the funds that finance ERate. The telecommunications discounts provided through this program, which is monitored through the FCC, allow public libraries (and schools) to discount the costs of their telecommunications lines - including the costs of high-speed internet lines! Without these discounts, this public library would not be able to offer public access to the internet with the number of computers we have available! We reminded our elected officials there would be no E-Government available if public libraries could not offer public internet access!

We also stressed the need to adequately fund school libraries - and to have an actual librarian (not a teacher's assistant) - in each school library. Studies have shown that school libraries that are managed by real librarians have a positive impact on student's test scores. Keep in mind that ALL students have access to their school libraries, while they may not have the transportation to visit a public library. School libraries are their first (and sometimes ONLY) resource.

A very special treat was arranged by Representative Gregg Harper, (recently named) Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, the oldest joint committee in Congress . His office arranged a VIP Tour of the Library of Congress for our group! WOW! What a beautiful building! Can't you just imagine librarians touring there? We were steeped in history as we visited the Senate and House Reading Rooms - as well as the Jefferson Library!

Another treat was attending the Mississippi Coffee with Senator Wicker. While there, we met two wonderful young adults who were in DC to receive Mississippi Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The project of one young award winner, Joshua Prochaska, was raising funds for - and actually helping with - retiling the large Meeting Room in his local public library! We each gave him a big hug! The Mississippi Coffee gave us the opportunity to visit with Senator Wicker and members of his staff in a less formal setting. He hosts the coffee each Tuesday morning that Congress is in session. If you're going to DC, please let your congressman's offices know - there are tours and events you can participate in.

We took a side trip to visit the Holocaust Museum - what a haunting, sobering, exhibit. We attended services at the National Cathedral. The Cathedral is still under renovations from the severe damage it received during the earthquake that hit DC in 2011. What a beautiful structure, even with the scaffolding!

We came back exhausted, but felt our trip was an important one (and, we hope, successful!).

All in all, it was a wonderful few days. I have served as MLA's Legislative Chairman for several years (after serving as President for two years!) and am thankful that Mississippi libraries have an active association, willing and ready to speak up for their needs! Pictures from our visit may be found on our website .

Attendees included Sharman Smith, Executive Director of the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC); Jennifer Walker, Director of Development Services, MLC; MLC Commissioners: Pamela Pridgen, Director of The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forest County; Dr Glenda Segars, Director of the Itawamba Community College Library; Jolee Hussey, (retired) school librarian; and Celia Fisher, Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs. Also attending were Lynn Shurden, (retired) Director of the Bolivar County Library System and Mississippi Library Association (MLA) President; Amanda Clay Powers, Librarian with Mississippi State University libraries and MLAVice-president; and myself, Chairman of the MLA Legislative Committee.

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