To energize our lines of communication with our legislators and to offer them the opportunity to see just a peek of what their budget votes can do for their constituencies, WNYLRC hosted a Legislative Breakfast on Friday, January 16 at WNYLRC headquarters. A round of December invitations beckoned the Senators and Assemblypersons and/or their representatives to a short program amid breakfast and conversation. Advocacy is what librarians speak of with frequency and this is only one in a series of attempts to acquaint our regional legislators with libraries’ activities and needs and to point out how welcome and vital regional legislative support in Albany always is.
A turnout of legislator representatives including those for Senators Gallivan, Ranzenhofer and Panepinto and Assemblymen Kearns, Schimminger and Ryan along with Senator Rob Ortt and Lynn Marinelli, representing Christina Orsi from the WNY Regional Economic Development Council, were afforded a program of wide-ranging initiatives which libraries, among WNYLRC members, have produced to great success for their patrons and these programs, oftentimes, have been accomplished without the greater knowledge that grant funds and funding from library budget lines in the legislature’s purview have made possible. With rapt attention, our legislative representatives listened to short programs after a brief overview by Kerrie Wilkes, WNYLRC Board president, about the Council and its influence in these six counties on coordinating many programs across library types and facilitating partnerships between similar library types and creating out-of-the box collaborations across type while extending what sometimes is a very small dollar amount to the greatest effectiveness. WNYLRC was ably represented by several Board of Trustee members, along with system directors from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System and the Nioga Library System and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System. The Buffalo School Library System, Erie 1 Boces, Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES SLS and others rounded out our diverse membership and were at the ready to answer any questions that the legislators might have.
A tight program of briefings designed to hold attention and demonstrate the diversity of our membership and the collective impact on the community started with Renee Masters from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library explaining the programs addressing citizens’ public health care information needs and how critical it is for the public to know they have a source of aid in these particularly trying health-care choice years via their public libraries. Next, Christian Blum from Bryant and Stratton College and Tracy Efthemis, Lancaster High School’s librarian, extolled the virtues of their very successful partnership to introduce students at the high school level to information literacy on the college level and what might be expected of them when they pursue the next step in their educational ladder. This is a program that can easily be replicated and which is in the works for other schools and academic institutions with the help of WNYLRC’s HIgh School to College committee. Representing the currently focused push to preserve our history via digital technology was Jessica Johnson from the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center at Forest Lawn Cemetery and the boon to historians, genealogists and tourists alike that this new, beautifully planned site will be to this region and to chronicling our history via digitized and hardcopy records. Lastly, Dawn Peters from Buffalo & Erie County Public Library presented a powerpoint demonstration of BPS Desktop, the library’s partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools enabling BPS students to be able to access their schoolwork through the library’s computers at all 37 library locations. This also allows parents an ability to keep track of their child’s work and to help when needed.
These briefings were only snippets of the work that all of our libraries engage in daily and which are undertaken for nothing more than the greater good of the community. The fact that partnerships grew out of stretched and stringent budgets only highlights what incredible work could be done with increased funding or, at the very least, a return to the funding that libraries have been led to expect.
Judging from the animated conversations that took place before and after the program, it’s clear that this breakfast is only one way to approach those whose vote can determine libraries future. Advocacy is an ongoing endeavor and since legislatures are in a constant state of flux, establishing rapport and communications with elected officials should be Job One for all types of libraries.