Advocacy Tips

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The GRO sends these weekly tips to the Advocacy Listserv. Submit your own via our easy survey!

Questions or comments? Contact Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org

Tip #50: Today, the GRO concluded our year-long series of monthly online advocacy trainings designed to better equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to advocate for yourself and for your profession. Throughout the course of 2013, we covered topics from the federal budget process to writing letter to the editor, to congressional committees and state advocacy campaigns. The new year will bring renewed opportunities to advocate for AALL’s top priority positions and we’ll need your help. Watch recordings of our past trainings or view the PowerPoint presentations here and be ready to speak up! (December 11, 2013)

Tip #49: Set the table! Raise your profile as a solid information source on an issue by sharing your knowledge with peers and colleagues. Then, adapt your presentation to the setting in which you find yourself. In your work environment or in social settings, a light, informational approach might be the most appropriate way for you to elevate awareness about a particular issue. Without advocating a position, you can still help create a chance for effective advocacy in the future. Colleagues and friends (or even policymakers and legislators) who rely on you for trustworthy and updated information may be more willing to get on board when the opportunity arises to actively support legislation or policy changes. Submitted by Deborah Darin, Student Services Librarian & Adjunct Associate Professor at the Marquette University Law School, and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (December 4, 2013)

Tip #48: Become an expert on an issue by following sources you trust. Identify blogs, columnists, organizations – even Twitter feeds! – that cover the issues you care about and check them regularly to stay engaged. If you’re inspired, you can build your own online resources or start your own blog. Doing so can be a great way to advocate certain positions or simply promote the discussion of the topic in general. Submitted by Christopher Vallandingham, Head of Collections and Adjunct Law Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (November 20, 2013) 

Tip #47: Know the state of play in your state. It is important to take efforts to understand the current political climate in your state legislature early on in your advocacy efforts and before you reach out to potential stakeholders. Take some time to research who your most effective allies will be based upon your understanding of who has the ear of those in power. It could take a little effort to reconsider your position’s appeal to those who may not seem to be traditional allies, but who hold the reins of power in your state. Submitted by Leslie Street, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Assistant Director for Public Services at the Kathrine R. Everett Law Library, School of Law, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Vice Chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (November 13, 2013)


Tip #46: As with all advocacy efforts, state-level work is based in solid, trustworthy relationships developed over time. Learn about your legislature (Is it full-time or part-time? Citizen or professional?) and your legislators (What are their committee assignments? Occupations and educations?), then work to engage them! Strong supporters can come in handy when you need a sponsor for a bill, a quote in the press, or an ally for your campaign. By establishing yourself as a resource for your legislators early on, you’ll have a relationship on which to rely should an issue arise. Learn more about forming relationships from the recording and PowerPoint presentation of our recent online training, “Advocating at the State Level: Tips and Tricks for Success.” (November 6, 2013)

Tip #45: Are you an experienced advocate? Do you feel comfortable contacting legislators and their staffs? Consider a mini training session with interested colleagues to help them get started in advocacy. You may know any number of colleagues, people you've meet through various library associations, or coworkers who are passionate about an issue who have made a phone call or two to a legislator but feel awkward taking any further action. Help get them to the next level of advocacy. Role play, talk through an issue, perhaps even accompany them on a visit to a legislator's office. Spread the fun. Be an advocacy mentor! Submitted by Marlene Harmon, Reference Librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (October 30, 2013)

Tip #44: Tell your members of Congress how the shutdown affected you. With limited access to agency websites and few updates to government information sources, law librarians felt the effects of the recent government shutdown and its impact on access to government information firsthand. Using our Legislative Action Center, send a note to your Senators and Representative today to explain how the lack of access to government information affected constituents in their home state or district, including patrons of your law library. Be sure to describe your institution, your patrons, and any obstacles they faced as a result of the government shutdown. Sharing your stories may act as an impetus towards avoiding another budget impasse. Submitted by Anne McDonald, Law Library Coordinator at the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General, and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (October 23, 2013)

Tip #43: It needn’t be intimidating to send letters of support to your legislature when needed. Model letters and fact sheets are often available from your chapter Government Relations Committee and/or the AALL Government Relations Office. As a chapter leader or member, just personalize and customize a letter and it’s ready to go. You can modify it as needed when the bill moves to the next committee or stage of legislation. Mass produced form letters won’t do, but using a model works just fine and will relieve the anxiety of writing one from scratch. See examples of past chapter letters and a sample letter for individuals in the Advocacy Toolkit. Submitted by David McFadden, Senior Reference Librarian at the Leigh H. Taylor Law Library at Southwestern Law School, Government Relations Committee chair for the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL), and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (October 16, 2013)


Tip #42:
 Reach out beyond the law library community and get to know other library advocates, particularly at the local level. You can check in with other library associations in your area to learn what they’re up to and see if you have common ground, or join your state library organization or government documents group. By joining with partners and allies in advocacy, you significantly enhance your ability to effect change. Submitted by Peggy Roebuck Jarrett, Documents & Reference Librarian at the Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law, and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (October 9, 2013)

Tip #41:
 Know your network. Are you an employee of an academic institution with legislator alumni? Do you have classmates from law school who are now elected officials? From reunions to holiday parties, informal social situations and networking events can provide a great opportunity to make your (re)introduction and begin to establish rapport with people who may be helpful for in future advocacy campaigns. Submitted by Richard Leiter, Director of the Schmid Law Library and Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska and member of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (October 2, 2013)

Tip #40: 
Don’t forget your state legislators. If one of your legislators is an alumnus of the academic law library you work in, so much the better!  Attend an event where you know your legislator will be, introduce yourself and tell them you are a constituent. If you have met your legislators before there is an issue in your state, you may have increased credibility when crunch time comes. This also works on the federal level! Submitted by Susan Nevelow Mart, Associate Professor and Director of the Law Library at the University of Colorado Law School William A. Wise Law Library and 2013-2014 Chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee. (September 25, 2013)

Tip #39: Celebrate your successes and share your challenges! The Advocacy Listserv isn’t just a place for the GRO to post tips and legislative updates. Use this list to connect with your colleagues, report your advocacy achievements, pose questions about policy issues, or strategize about advocacy work in your state. Nearly 400 law librarians have joined our advocacy community and all have valuable knowledge, experience, and stories to share. We welcome your conversation. (September 18, 2013)

Tip #38: The 113th Congress is comprised of 40 standing, 4 joint, and 1 select committees, each undertaking some of Congress’s the most substantive— and least transparent— work. Do you know how you can impact legislation before it even hits the floor? Join the Government Relations Office on September 25 at 12:00pm ET for a 30-minute online training, “Congress at Work: The Structure and Significance of Congressional Committees,” to learn more about the importance of congressional committee work and how you can take advantage of the committee structure to reach our policy goals. With the House Judiciary Committee taking up copyright reform and the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees debating privacy laws, there will be many opportunities for you to influence committee work in the coming months! Register online by September 24. (September 11, 2013)

Tip #37:
You can now use our Legislative Action Center to track AALL’s top priority bills. This new feature of the Action Center shows you the status of legislation important to AALL’s policy priorities. The GRO updates the list to keep you informed of our top priorities, including those bills most likely to see Congressional action, like the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act. We’ve also made some recent changes to the Action Center, so click around our site to learn the latest and take action. (September 4, 2013)

Tip #36: 
New school year, new stories about using print legal materials. Here’s a friendly reminder for all academic law librarians kicking off a new school year: As you work to help faculty and students find federal legal materials, please let us know when you use the print! We’ve already collected some great anecdotes with our Print Resource Usage Log and shared your stories with the Government Printing Office, but we want to ensure that the project is ongoing and up-to-date. Help us build the case for the continued need for print legal materials by logging each time you use, or help someone to use, a federal legal resource in print. You may also consider posting the log link on your institution’s intranet to encourage more frequent logging. (August 28, 2013)

Tip #35: 
Coalitions can help. Partnering with others sends the message that your policy perspectives are reasonable, universally liked, and are therefore easier for an elected official to support. By identifying potential partners early in the process, you can help ensure the right people are delivering a message that will resonate. Check out AALL member Mary Jenkins’s guide “Building Strong, Unified Coalitions” from the 2013 Legislative Advocacy Training. (August 21, 2013)

Tip #34: Create a 90 second “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself and promote your library to your elected officials. A successful pitch will hook your audience, present a solution, and persuade your listener in two minutes or less! Practice makes perfect, so be sure to rehearse in front of a colleague or friend. See our Elevator Pitch Basics worksheet and Elevator Pitch Template on UELMA for more advice on the art of persuasion. (August 14, 2013)

Tip #33:
Share the wealth! Toot your own horn! Have you taken action for your library and have advice to share? Submit your own weekly advocacy tip or share your lessons learned with this listserv. (August 7, 2013)

Tip #32:
Hosting your elected officials for a tour of your library is a great way to educate legislators about the importance of law libraries, the work that you do, and the resources you provide to attorneys, judges, pro se litigants, students, and members of the public. A tour can also provide an opportunity to advocate for greater financial support for libraries and their supporting agencies, while giving your legislator a helpful media opportunity. Learn how to identify the right time for a tour, invite your members of Congress, and handle the press at our upcoming August 7 online training "Recess Advocacy: Tips for Influencing Members of Congress at Home." Register online today. (July 31, 2013)

Tip #31: 
Think August recess will be slow? Try setting up a meeting with your Representative in his/her district office, attend a Senator’s town hall meeting, or invite your members of Congress to tour your library. Join the Government Relations Office on August 7th from 12:00 – 12:30 pm EDT for our complimentary online advocacy training, “Recess Advocacy: Tips for Influencing Members of Congress at Home.” We’ll delve a little deeper into the preparations you should take to be ready to put advocacy into practice during this summer recess. Register online by August 5. (July 24, 2013)

Tip #30:
If you don’t know, say so! It’s never a good idea to make up an answer to a question in meetings with legislators or their staff. Rather than winging your response to a tough question,  it’s best to admit that you don’t know the answer, offer to find out, and follow up. Policymakers have to rely on the information they are given. Successful advocacy often depends on forming strong relationships— and you want to be a trusted source! (June 19, 2013)

Tip #29: 
Did you know all 100 members of the Senate and 406 members (93%) of the House of Representatives are on Twitter? Following your elected officials is a great way to learn about their positions on issues, sponsored bills, and upcoming events. Twitter can also be used to track breaking legislative news. In light of recent events, hashtags like #privacy, #surveillance, and #NSA have been popular among legislators and organizations working on privacy issues. Be sure to follow us at @AALL_GRO for the latest news, alerts, and policy updates and join the conversation! (June 12, 2013)

Tip #28: 
Focus! When you write an e-mail or letter to your member of Congress, it’s best to keep the purpose of the letter to one issue. Communications that are simple, clear, and concise will make it easier  for your member to understand the issue and your stance. Try to keep your letter to one page and include who you are,  who you represent, and the specific reasons why the bill or issue would affect your community. If you disagree with an issue, then the letter should include sound reasons why you oppose it. Be sure to ask for a written response from your Member of Congress. This is a great way to advocate on different issues throughout the year by providing written feedback to your legislator. (May 29, 2013)

Tip #27:
Congressional staff members  are often as busy as the members of Congress they work for and have many competing demands for their time. Meetings with staff usually last 15-30 minutes and may take place in a legislative staff room, the front lobby, or even in the busy hallway outside the office. Don’t be flustered or take offense if the environment lacks privacy or is a bit hectic. Stay on target and be concise with your message. The staff will appreciate your focus and you may find a strong ally in someone with influence on legislative priorities. (May 22, 2013)

Tip #26:
It is helpful to have a “legislative ask”  to make of your lawmaker in a constituent meeting. This clear, actionable request should be plainly articulated, timely, and consistent with the legislative process. Examples include asking that a legislator co-sponsor a bill, vote “no” on a measure, or introduce legislation on a topic. Making a specific request will give you the opportunity to better evaluate your legislator's position. (May 15, 2013)

Tip #25: Practice makes perfect. If you’re meeting with your legislator in a group, it’s a good idea to role-play the meeting ahead of time. Who's your spokesperson? Is there someone who can clearly articulate the problem or position and your legislation ask? Who will take notes or send a thank you email? The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be! (May 8, 2013)

Tip #24: Did you know that you can request access to Congressional Research Service reports through your members of Congress’ offices? To do so, you must know of a specific report's existence, and cannot request reports based merely on a topic. That’s why the Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution of 2013 (H.Res. 110) would be invaluable. This bill would make CRS reports available to the public in a searchable and downloadable database, with confidential and copyrighted information redacted. Contact your member of Congress in support today! (May 1, 2013)

Tip #23: Have you seen our new Advocacy One-Pagers? Each year, the Government Relations Committee writes these handy guides on current legislation. The one-pagers can be used to learn about current bills, as leave-behinds for Congressional staff, or to help you craft talking points. Take a look and then put them to use when you contact your member of Congress through our Legislative Action Center. (April 24, 2013)

Tip #22: Business dress is best when meeting with your member of Congress. Wearing appropriate clothing adds to your credibility, so put on that suit and tie— and wear comfortable shoes! (April 10, 2013)

Tip #21: When attempting to meet with a member of Congress, contact the office’s Scheduler. Many offices will require that scheduling requests be provided in writing via fax or email. If this is the case, be sure to include all relevant information in your request, including who you are, where you live, when you want to meet, and what you wish to discuss. It’s a good idea to follow up written requests with phone calls to the office. Most importantly, let the Scheduler know that you are a constituent! (April 3, 2013)

Tip #20: In a 2011 study, nearly identical percentages of Congressional staffers said postal mail (90%) and email (88%) from constituents would have an influence on an undecided member of Congress. However, while 20% of the staffers surveyed said individualized email and postal mail would have “a lot of influence” on an undecided Member, only 1% said identical form email and postal mail would have this much influence! Personalization is key when writing to your member of Congress. The next time you use our Legislative Action Center to send a message, be sure to  add a few lines about impact of legislation on your library or patrons, providing the reasons you support or oppose the bill  or issue or a relevant personal story. Get additional tips on communicating with Congress and more from our recent online trainings.  (March 27, 2013)

Tip #19: Are you attending the 2013 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference in Seattle? This year you'll need to sign up for the Legislative Advocacy Training when you register for the conference. Available at no additional cost, this annual training brings together advocates both new and experienced to network, learn new skills, and strategize about federal and state legislation on topics such as copyright, privacy, and UELMA. Don’t forget to register! (Mar. 20, 2013)

Tip #18: Always bring written materials or visuals to leave with your lawmaker’s office following a meeting. The best way to ensure that your legislator sees your point is to put it in writing. These handouts should succinctly summarize your main points and positions— try to limit your leave behind materials to one or two pages, and include details on where the information can be located on the web, if appropriate. You can learn more about best practices for influencing your members of Congress at our upcoming online advocacy training “Communicating with Congress: Strategies for Effective Advocacy on Capitol Hill” on March 26 from 12:00-12:30 pm EDT. (Mar. 13, 2013)

Tip #17: This week the House Appropriations Committee began its work on Fiscal Year 2014 with budget hearings on the Government Printing Office and Library of Congress. Is your member of Congress an appropriator? Use our Legislative Action Center to find your members’ committee assignments and let us know if your legislators are members of the subcommittees on the Legislative Branch; Financial Services; Labor, Health and Human Services; or Commerce, Justice and Science. Subcommittees make important recommendations for funding levels that dictate what agencies will have the resources to do. Your voice can influence the fate of important law library allies like the Government Printing Office, Legal Services Corporation, Library of Congress, and National Archives and Records Administration! (Feb. 27, 2013)

Tip #16: Want to help raise public awareness about the need for greater government transparency? Save the Date for Sunshine Week events across the country March 10-16th! See our detailed member guide for advice on planning a successful Sunshine Week event in your area or contact the Government Relations Office for help. (Feb. 20, 2013)

Tip #15: Be friendly to everyone in your member of Congress’s office – that intern could one day be the Legislative Director! (Feb. 13, 2013)

Tip #14: Whether advocating for a position to your lawmakers or in the media, it’s helpful to know your opposition. What is their argument and how will you rebut? The strongest, most persuasive cases acknowledge opposing views and tackle them head on. (Feb. 6, 2013)

Tip #13: Did you know the Opinions page is one of the most well-read sections of the newspaper? The media can act as a powerful tool in grassroots advocacy by allowing your message to reach a broad public audience. By publishing a letter to the editor or op-ed in response to a single news issue, you can help inform the opinions of your members of Congress and fellow constituents. The Connecticut Law Tribune’s recent op-ed ($) on UELMA serves as a great example. See our Advocacy Toolkit for more tips.  (Jan. 30, 2013)

Tip #12: Always bring written materials or visuals to leave with your member’s office following a meeting. The best way to ensure that your member sees your point is to put it in writing. These handouts should succinctly summarize your main points and positions, ideally in one page or less. (Jan. 23, 2013)

Tip #11: Do you know AALL’s top policy priorities? Check out our newly redesigned GRO homepage, now organized by issue area. Categories include Privacy, Intellectual Property, Access to Government Information, Open Government, and State Issues. Under each, you’ll find a brief statement of our policy positions and the content from the current and more recent past Congress! (Jan. 15, 2013)

Tip #10: Though over 90% of members kept their seats in the 2012 Congressional elections, the 113th Congress is comprised of 94 new and diverse members, with a record number of women, minorities, and religions serving in the House and Senate. Learn how to influence this Congress at AALL’s complimentary online training “New Year, New Congress: A Month-by-Month Guide to the 113th” next Wednesday, January 16 at 12pm EST. We’ll walk you through the major legislative actions and political landscape of 2013, focusing on strategic opportunities for your involvement and answering your questions. New and experienced advocates are welcome! Registration closes on Monday, so be sure to claim your spot today.  (Jan. 09, 2013)

Tip #9: Do you know when your state legislative session begins? This new tool from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) provides a helpful visual of states’ 2013 legislative sessions. (Dec. 19, 2012)

Tip #8: Always identify yourself as a constituent, whether you’re writing, calling or meeting with your member of Congress or publishing a piece in the news. Legislators care about the 51% that elected them and prioritize their constituents opinions! (Dec. 12, 2012)

Tip #7: Our tools are here to help! The AALL Legislative Action Center does more than provide sample email messages to your members of Congress. You can use the site to easily find which committees your members serve on, their educational and political experience, contact information for their DC and district offices, and demographic information about Congress.  (Dec. 5, 2012)

Tip #6: When legislation is fast-moving, it’s best to call to your member of Congress’s office in Washington, D.C. Unlike emails, phone calls are received instantaneously and can have a greater impact on urgent issues; offices usually tally the number of calls they receive on a particular issue or position each day. The staffer you speak with may be unfamiliar with your issues, so focus on one or two key points. To find your Senators' and Representative's phone numbers, you can check their websites or AALL’s Legislative Action Center, or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask for the member of Congress you are trying to reach by name and state and you will be connected to the appropriate office.  (Nov. 28, 2012)

Tip #5: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks! Following a meeting with your member of Congress or his/her staff, be sure to send a note or email to thank each person you met. If your member voted in favor of your position on an issue, you can also call the office to say thanks. Thank you notes take little time but can be an important step in maintaining a relationship with a policymaker’s office. (Nov. 20, 2012)

Tip #4: It can be tricky to keep track of the ever-changing Congressional schedule, particularly in a lame duck session like this one. Want to know where to look for Congress’s latest to-do list? The Library of Congress rounds up these Congressional calendars of floor and legislative schedules. You can also subscribe to the Office of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s Daily Whip, as well as weekly and nightly newsletters, to track progress in the House. Last but not least, several online news sites like Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call can also provide great summaries to help you figure out upcoming votes, breaks, and bills. (Nov. 15, 2012)

Tip #3: Did your district or state elect new members of Congress last night? If so, it’s time to get to know them! Do they have a JD? Have they stated their freshman year priorities? Learning this simple information now will help you to advocate in the new Congress come January. (Nov. 7, 2012)

Tip #2: Members of Congress frequently hold town hall meetings with their constituents when they're back in their home states and districts. Check the "news" or "events" section of your Senators’ and Representative's websites or sign up for their e-newsletter to get announcements about upcoming events. Then, show up with well-researched, well-rehearsed talking points and raise your hand! (Oct. 31, 2012)

Tip #1: Collect stories, statistics, anecdotes from your library and patrons. By recording these personal accounts, you’ll have evidence prepared that will prove crucial in making your case when an issue arises. The better a storyteller you are, the better a political advocate you’ll be! (Oct. 24, 2012)