Advocating for Texas librarians

The Texas Senate has proposed a $5,000 raise for all classroom teachers in Senate Bill 3 (SB3). However, the bill doesn’t include librarians or counselors for this raise.  The Austin Statesman had a good article on the bill today.  Today, several librarians spoke at a committee hearing to advocate for us– asking for librarians to be included in Senate Bill 3.   (Thanks to Nancy Jo Lambert, Jennifer LaBoon, and Sara Stevenson.) However, the bill was still voted out of committee to go before the full Senate, and the bill still does not include a pay increase for librarians (or counselors).  The Statesman’s followup article after the hearings is here.

The Texas House is also considering raises but looking at handling them differently, possibly by giving funds to districts instead.  The two will eventually have to come to agreement.  This leaves time for us to talk to both our Senator and Representative about the bill.  This week, it’s most important to speak to your Senator.  (But it doesn’t hurt to start talking to your Representative’s office about whatever bill they are planning).

Texas librarians, it’s time for us to get in touch with legislators!    What are ways we can do that?  I’m sharing multiple methods here, but the point is, do something 🙂

  1.  Learn a little about your legislators.  Look up your Senator or Representative and see what bills they have sponsored in the past. Look at the sidebar and see what bills or press they have done. This gives you some context or a way to approach them.  See what shared interests you might have.  Draw on those for your conversations.
  2. Contact your legislator via phone.  Read a couple of articles first (like this one from Sara Stevenson) so you know what you are asking for. (Hint: You support the raise for teachers but are asking that legislators understand that librarians are teachers, too.) . When you call, you can leave a message with whoever answers the phone.  Be prepared to leave your name and phone number and zip code.   The aide will record your comments. They probably won’t be passed along word for word, and they may just record that you are “for or against” something, but elaborate anyway in case something you say strikes a nerve.
  3. When you call, you can also ask to speak to the “legislative aide” or policy staff member who handles the SB3 bill.  If you can speak to them, that’s even better.  If they aren’t available, you can ask for their email and send the policy staff a specific email about your request and reasons for it.
  4. If you don’t want to or cannot call, you can also email your legislator using the online form for your legislator.  This email goes to office staff, most likely.  But sometimes legislators may see it.  State your case clearly and make one or two critical points.  Be polite and professional.
  5. You can set up a time to visit the legislator’s office.  If you are visiting in person, read up on all details ahead of time.  Remember to present your message in a concise and clear fashion at the outset.  (You can follow the 27-9-3 rule to prepare:  27 words, 9 sentences, 3 key points.) .  Keep your 3 points clear and to the point.
  6. Story matters.  If you can get your message across with a short compelling and memorable story, this is very effective.
  7. You can call or email more than once and develop a relationship with the audience.  Mention that you called before or emailed before but would like to follow up.
  8. Whichever way you contact your legislator, be polite.  Don’t assume they are out to get you.  Take this as an opportunity to educate them and share great stories with them about libraries.  It’s okay to point out problems with the legislation but just be professional.
  9. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.  Talk to your PTO about the role libraries play.  Share articles with friends on Facebook and ask them to share your stories.  All of these ways help people understand what librarians do more fully.
  10. Follow the lead of leading organizations like teacher organizations, TXLA, etc., who will be updating us along the way.

We need your voices.  From small rural districts to large urban ones — from south Texas to west Texas — legislators need to hear from you.

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