Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Libraries, Beer, and Lobbying in Washington, DC

On Monday, May 5th and Tuesday, May 6th hundreds of librarians will descend on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress for funding. National Library Legislative Day is in its fortieth year, and one need not be in Washington, DC to participate.

But what if it were thousands? Tens of thousands?

Every year craft brewers arrive in DC to throw a party called SAVOR. The event takes place in DC in no small part because the brewers can have a legislative day, reminding Congress that breweries are small businesses that employ Americans and use agricultural inputs. The one year that SAVOR skipped DC, the Craft Brewers Conference was here instead, affording yet another legislative day.

I understand that politics, lobbying, and asking for money strikes some as distasteful, but if you are in a position of leadership in a library, or even if you're not, this is something you should be doing. The money you're asking for supports your communities and if you want to speak the neoliberal language of return on investment (ROI), libraries have you covered there, too.
  • Every dollar spent on an academic library returns about four dollars.
  • Every dollar spent on a public library returns between three to six dollars (page 3-4 of this pdf for both those numbers, though other dollar amounts are available elsewhere. Sorry, I don't know if there's research on special, law, governmental, and other libraries).
Lobbying and asking for things doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. For example, the Food and Drug Administration wanted to test the spent grain of breweries for various pathogens, and it wanted either breweries or the farmers who use that spent grain to feed livestock to foot the bill. Costs would no doubt be passed on to consumers, too. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY, and more importantly Amy Schumer's uncle) and Mark Udall (D-CO), among others, intervened, citing the economic impact to craft breweries that donate spent grain to farms. Two bills, the Small BREW Act and the BEER Act, probably won't pass, but to quote Lifehacker, "you don't get shit you don't ask for." Asking is important, as are building relationships within our admittedly broken political process.

And that brings us to the American Library Association. The ALA Annual Meeting, or at least the Mid-Winter one, should be regularly held in Washington, DC for the same reason that craft brewers come to town. We need more advocacy, we need it more regularly, and we need to build relationships over the long term. The Congresspersons in the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms. What if at least once a term thousands of librarians from all over the country met with them?*

What's at stake?
  • Net Neutrality
  • Funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (these two via Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-WI, proposed budget)
  • Open access for taxpayer-research
  • Online privacy
  • A whole host of education-related issues
  • And much much more.

Speaking of SAVOR, here is's coverage of the event, which takes place on May 9th and 10th. Craft brewers will be on the Hill on the 8th and 9th. The National Beer Wholesalers Association held their annual meeting, again, always in DC, last night. There was beer and ice cream.

SAVOR Behind the Scenes: How the Brewery Selection Process Works
I also wrote a few profiles of some breweries:
Crux Fermentation Project
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Societe Brewing

Anyway, more lobbying and advocacy in DC, and in state capitals, which means state library association meetings in capital cities, too, please.

* And yes, as a DC resident, it is selfish of me to ask for this. I'd also add that DC has no "stand your ground" law, same-sex marriage, some of the more robust transgender protection laws in the country, a human rights commission, and many minority-owned businesses, among others. 

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