Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wisconsin Library Legislative Day: Our Path to Success

Hello to library advocates throughout Wisconsin

What I'm sharing with you today is, in essence, a summary/transcript of my portion of the legislative briefing that takes place at Library Legislative Day on Tuesday, February 5th at the Inn on the Park in Madison.

The Library Development & Legislation Committee (LD&L) and the Library Legislative Day Planning Subcommittee (LLD) has a lot of information to share with you, and this email gives you the opportunity to get a headstart on familiariizing yourself with it.    The 2013 issue papers will soon appear on the WLA state legilslative webpages.

So here we go. (But before we do, a special thanks to Kris Adams Wendt and Tony Driessen for their input on this briefing.)

Preparing for Wisconsin Library Legislative Day 2013 

Our Path to Success: A Conversation, Not an Oration. 

What follows is the road map for the 2013 Wisconsin Library Legislative Day, with specific points marked along the way – and opportunities for a few side trips.

The plan contains 4 elements 
  1. The Shared Objectives 
  2. The Pitch 
  3. The Story 
  4. The Tools 

But first some general background information.

Try not to feel overwhelmed! (Easier said than done, I suppose.) Although the LD&L and LLD are presenting you with a lot of information, we want to emphasize that you shouldn’t feel obligated to touch on every single point of our legislative agenda during your meetings with legislators on February 5th. Please take time to familiarize yourself with the items on our legislative agenda and with the approach we plan to take with legislators so that you can prepare a number of effective library stories to tell.

Governor Walker to submit his budget to the legislature on February 20th. Step 2 of the budget process -- Budget proposed by Governor and sent to Legislature (chart 14) – is scheduled to take place on February 20th. Walker will deliver his budget address in the Assembly Chambers at 7:00 p.m. In other words, we won’t know what’s specifically in the budget until later that week, which give us an opportunity to follow up with our legislators before the end of February with, depending upon the outcome, a reinforced or recalibrated message.

As for the library programs in the 2013-15 biennial budget, we're hoping that they will be funded at the same level as the 2011-13 budget. Personally, I think that's the best we can expect.

A conversation, not an oration. Most importantly, though, we want to be sure that we have conversations with our legislators and/or legislative aides. Don’t feel you need to fill up all the “air time”. (Advice offered by a retired legislator.)

Sidebar: On Tuesday, February 5th, Tony Driessen and Michael Blumenfeld will provide the following
  • Update on the current legislature based on the 2012 November elections 
  • Leadership in the Senate and Assembly 
  • The legislative calendar (when legislators are in session) 
  • Tips and etiquette about meeting with your legislators (REMEMBER, the appointment has already been made for you.) 
  • The importance of follow-up and building relationships. 

Now let’s take a closer look at the 4 elements of “Our Path to Success”

1. The Shared Objectives: We know these are the three priorities of our governor.
  • Creating jobs 
  • Transforming education 
  • Developing our workforce 

In October 2013, Governor Walker made clear what his priorities are for the 2013-15 biennial budget

Our message: Wisconsin libraries are partners in this endeavor.

Which leads us to ……. 

2. The Pitch: A modest investment from the state budget supports local libraries’ ability to deliver. 

At this time, you might want to provide 1 or 2 preliminary examples/stories of how such state-funded collaborative programs – public library systems, BadgerLink, statewide service contracts, UW System libraries, Common School Fund – make a positive difference at the local level in the lives of your legislators’ constituents. 

Then pause for feedback from the legislator or aide. 

3. The Story: At this point in your conversation, use specific example of how libraries are already helping to achieve the Governor’s budget priorities. 

Stories are more effective than statistics. 

And we need to be prepared to share some effective ones if we wish to make any headway in our goals for increased funding. 

On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, describe to your legislators, using specific examples, how their constituents have made the transition from Point A (your library) to Points B (education and career goals). 

More specifically…… 

Point A represents the physical and virtual materials, services, and programs provided by your library: public, academic, school, special. 

Points B represent specific education and career goals, including but not limited to 
  • The next step in a person’s educational progress, or
  • A first job, or 
  • A better-paying job with greater responsibilities, or 
  • A job obtained after a period of unemployment 

These are examples that align us with Governor Walker's stated budget priorities, but we also know, as a result of the work of his Read to Lead Commission last year, that family literacy and reading readiness should also match up well with his agenda.

We’re not saying that you need to limit your stories to the four bullet points listed above, but the Governor and his staff have made it very clear that any increased funding to specific agencies/programs needs to be directly tied to job creation, education, and workforce development.

4. The Tools: These are the programs we are paying attention to in the 2013-15 state budget and during the 2013 state biennium.

Explanatory note: The first bullet point under each of the following headings is how the programs are briefly described in a letter sent to each legislator’s office this week. These letters also include a list of names of the Wisconsin Library Legislative Day attendees with whom legislators will be meeting. 

Public library system funding
  •  They “run in the background” like underlying operating dogtestr telling the parts of a computer how to work together and what to do -- organizing shared catalogs, inter-library loan, delivery and other efficiencies for Wisconsin’s 385 local public libraries that appear “on the screen” as the customized public face of community service. 
  • Amount requested: $1,668,100 in each year of the biennium to restore the 10% cut applied in both years of the 2011-13 budget. 

Sidebar: State law requires that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction funding for public library systems at a level equal to 13% of local and county library operating expenditures. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying requirement that the Governor and Legislature honor this request, which is why we are at an estimated 6.9% for 2013.. Advocating for the 13% -- a 93% increase over the current base -- is not likely to strike legislators as a reasonable request. We think asking for a restoration of the 10% cut better fits the definition of "reasonable".

  • This efficient, cost-effective project offers Wisconsinites free online, full-text access to more than 20,000 specialized information sources, including magazines, newspapers, books, auto repair manuals, company business profiles, and industrial reports and yearbooks
  • Amount requested: $29,000 in FY 2013-14, $36,100 in FY 2014-15 to replace funding no longer covered by the State Historical Society 

Statewide resource contracts
  • Grant access to specialized library materials and information not available in public libraries. These include unique services to the blind and visually impaired, to Wisconsin librarians and teachers selecting children’s literature, and to state residents who require inter-loaned material from large research collections. 
  • Amount requested: $22,700 in each year of the biennium. to continue to provide same level of service 

Newsline for the Blind
  • Provides access to 15 state newspapers and more than 365 national newspapers and magazines via touchtone phone to people who cannot read print. 
  • Amount requested: No increase in 1st year, $400 increase in send year of biennium to continue full funding. 

Common School Fund 
  • Constitutionally protected fund managed by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands providing annual statewide support to all school libraries 
  • Appears in the DPI budget as School Library Aids Re-estimate (see page 158) 
  • How the program works. The Fund is invested in state bonds, the State Investment Fund and in loans to municipalities and school districts through the State Trust Fund Loan Program. In April of each year, the Board forwards the available earnings of the Fund to DPI which then re-distributes the earnings as library aid to all K-12 public school districts in the state 
  • Amount requested: It varies from year to year based on the earnings. Our primary concern: To be on the lookout for proposals that do not support the appropriate use of this fund for strong school library programs. 

Broadband access
  • Sufficient affordable, sustainable high-capacity telecommunications is critical to libraries as their communities’ public gateway to effective Internet use, employment opportunities and government services. 
  • Although it’s highly likely we’ll need to address WiscNet more specifically between now and the end of June, it’s best to take the high road at this point, as summarized in a quote from Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “The system is clearly working for our schools and local governments. Low-cost Internet for public entities is clearly in the public’s interest.” (Yeah, I, too, wish the word "library" was in this quote.) 
  • Then there’s this headline from the 1/22/2013 New York Times: Survey Finds Rising Reliance on Libraries as a Gateway to the Web. (Story topic.) 
  • And this quote: In the past generation, public libraries have reinvented themselves to become technology hubs in order to help their communities access information in all its new forms. 

University of Wisconsin System libraries
  •  ...are engaged in a variety of activities that support Wisconsin’s grown agenda with an overriding goal to establish large-scale collaborations for resource sharing. 
  • Note: Unlike public library system funding, for example, the state budget does not include a separate line item for UW System libraries. In this case, the advocacy message is directed at the Board of Regents. 

Bottom line: Explain to your legislators who your library makes a positive difference I the lives of their constituents. It’s a service that is much loved and highly valued.

And, at a minimum, try to get a sense of where you can place your legislators along the library continuum: supportive, on the fence (could be persuaded), indifferent, not supportive.

Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of Wisconsin’s libraries!

Paul Nelson WLA Library Legislation & Development Chaiar

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