Wyoming at National Library Legislative Day

L to R: Ivan Gaetz, Sen. John Barrasso, Janice Grover-Roosa, and Jamie Markus

On May 1-2, representatives of the Wyoming Library Association (WLA) traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of the American Library Association’s 43rd annual National Library Legislative Day. Janice Grover-Roosa, Director of the Western Wyoming Community College Hay Library, and Ivan Gaetz, Dean of the University of Wyoming Libraries, met with Wyoming’s Congressional delegation to discuss key library issues. Wyoming State Librarian Jamie Markus accompanied them to provide information on how federal money is used in Wyoming.

Wyoming’s representatives hand-delivered letters from public, academic, and school librarians. The Congressional delegation and staff were grateful to hear from directors around the state, and the letters cemented the message that Wyoming libraries use federal funds to collaborate to improve people’s lives. Grover-Roosa provided us with this report of NLLD happenings:

By Janice-Grover-Roosa
Director, Western Wyoming Community College Hay Library

The Wyoming crew with Senator Mike Enzi

National Library Legislative Day provides an ideal opportunity for librarians, library board members and other library users to meet with their members of congress to discuss the meaningful contributions libraries make around the country every day. Though coming from a state with such a small population can leave Wyoming residents at a disadvantage from time to time, this isn’t the case when it comes to engaging in meaningful dialogue with our congressional representatives. Wyoming’s “one big town” mentality translated into three rich conversations between Wyoming librarians and members of Congress and their staff last week as Wyoming librarians made the trip to help keep Washington well informed.

After President Trump released his preliminary budget, completely cutting the funds appropriated for the Institute of Museums and Library Services and the Library Services Technology Act, librarians across the state were tasked with explaining what such a hefty cut would mean in terms of future library services and materials to uneasy library users. Luckily for librarians, Wyoming congressional representatives have repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to Wyoming libraries, allowing these hard conversations to be straightforward and practical. Simply put, Wyoming representatives have a history of supporting the breadth of services and resources available to residents through Wyoming libraries, and though it may be necessary to absorb some budget cuts, there’s little reason to believe all federal funding for libraries will be cut.

Last week State Librarian Jamie Markus, University of Wyoming Dean of Libraries Ivan Gaetz, and I met with Senators Enzi and Barrasso as well as Congressman Cheney to talk to them in person about the value LSTA funding brings to libraries across Wyoming. This is to say, Wyoming libraries are able to provide access to robust collections of materials seamlessly from one county to the next because of a collective commitment to funding by county, state, and federal entities and, as librarians working in the state,  we are always eager to discuss the importance of information access to inquisitive Wyoming communities. By “we,” I mean librarians from across the state—we weren’t alone at our visits. We arrived in D.C. with letters written by library directors from around the state who shared firsthand accounts of the significance of library services to Wyoming residents. Our congressional delegation was happy to welcome us to Capitol Hill to be a part of this important discussion, and they were grateful for the information provided from their Wyoming librarians.

After a gracious welcome from Ms. Enzi, Senator Enzi and members of his affable staff welcomed our Wyoming librarian crew to sit down with him to discuss the importance of libraries to thriving Wyoming communities. As almost every wall of Senator Enzi’s office was filled with books, the librarians felt right at home. Senator Enzi took the time to explain that no matter the year or the administration, Congress takes the time to carefully examine the federal budget and appropriate funds accordingly. He went on to engage in conversation about the different materials, services, and opportunities available to Wyoming residents as a result of LSTA funds.

Senator Barrasso, who had clearly done his research prior to our arrival, echoed Senator Enzi’s comments about carefully examining the entire federal budget. The Senator asked us how we currently put LSTA funds to use and also asked more detailed questions about library users, materials, and services. We also talked with the senator about the beautiful Carnegie libraries all around the state and the lasting legacy of information those libraries have helped to cultivate in our state. Senator Barrasso and his staff were engaged, interested, and took notes!

When we arrived at Congressman Cheney’s office we were a little worried we might not get to meet with her as she was at the Capitol Building waiting to cast a vote. Rather than cancel our meeting, however, she asked that we meet with her during her short break at the Capitol.  We were escorted by her committed staff through security and tunnels until we found Congressman Cheney waiting to meet with us. Congressman Cheney had a lot of questions for us. She wanted to know if people prefer eBooks or print and had questions about accessing various materials through mobile apps. Congressman Cheney was also interested in hearing about the information needs of Wyoming residents. Like Senators Enzi and Barrasso, Congressman Cheney also asked questions about how LSTA funds are put to use in Wyoming.

Though our federal representatives have always supported Wyoming libraries, we really appreciated the opportunity to reengage them in a conversation about libraries today. Our representatives took us seriously and clearly wanted to be well informed on issues regarding libraries. The federal budget still has a long way to go before it’s final but we know we’ve been heard and our representatives know where to go when they need their library questions answered.

As for those of you reading this post, feel free to reach out to me at librarian@westernwyoming.edu or to Cameron Duff, chair of the Wyoming Library Association’s Legislative Committee, at cduff@sheridanwyolibrary.org if you have any questions about LSTA funding and Wyoming libraries. If we can’t answer your questions, we’ll know who can.

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