The AALL Government Relations Committee (GRC) compiled the following resources to help AALL members advocate for federal, state, and local legislative issues that have an impact on the legal information profession.
AALL POLICIES AND RESOURCES
- AALL Government Relations Policy
- AALL Legislative Priorities for the 117th Congress
- AALL Guiding Principles for Public Access to Legal Information on Government Websites (Guiding Principles). The Guiding Principles are intended to help law librarians and legal information professionals support government efforts to provide greater public access to legal information on government websites.
- AALL Advocates Community. The GRC provides regular updates about federal, state, and local issues impacting the legal information profession to the members of this community.
- AALL Washington eBulletin. Sent to members in December, the AALL Washington eBulletin includes updates on AALL’s legislative priorities.
- AALL Webinar: “2022 AALL Chapter Advocacy Training” (January 27, 2022)
- AALL Webinar: “2021 AALL Virtual Legislative Advocacy Training” (September 21, 2021)
- AALL Webinar: “Law Librarians & Legal Information Professionals as Partners in the Access to Justice Movement” (March 3, 2021)
- AALL Webinar: “Government Law Library Funding: Advocacy Training for Law Libraries” (February 11, 2021)
Government Relations Committee
The Government Relations Committee monitors, promotes, and advocates for legislative, regulatory, and judicial developments that may have an impact on AALL members, on access to justice, and on the legal information profession. In addition to regular updates to the AALL Advocates Community, the GRC provides advocacy resources to support enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). The Committee also works with the Continuing Professional Education Committee on educational programs related to legislative issues and other advocacy issues.
The Copyright Committee monitors, promotes, and advocates for legislative, regulatory, and judicial developments on copyright issues. The Committee also works with the Continuing Professional Education Committee on educational programs related to copyright issues.
SPECIAL INTEREST SECTIONS
Some special interest sections (SISs), including the Government Law Libraries SIS and the Government Documents SIS, offer advocacy resources to members.
Some AALL chapters engage in advocacy and provide advocacy resources to members.
The following sections provide additional information to help law librarians and legal information professionals build their advocacy skills.
To find contact information for members of Congress, visit Congress.gov. Congress.gov also includes a list of state legislature websites where you can find contact information for state legislators.
Emails, phone calls, and social media are all useful tools to communicate with legislators if you are a constituent. Tips for contacting a legislator are included below:
- When writing an email to legislators, identify yourself, explain how the issue you are writing about affects law libraries and the legal information profession, and ask your legislator to take an action (g., vote for or against a bill, co-sponsor a bill, or express opposition to an issue). Your email should address only one issue and should identify the subject in the first paragraph. If you are writing in reference to a particular bill, refer to the bill number and title.
- When making a phone call to legislators, have the bill number and title ready along with a few talking points so that you can succinctly deliver your message. Phone calls may be especially effective for matters that are moving quickly, such as a pending vote.
- Social media is a common tool for legislators to both communicate their positions and hear feedback from constituents. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be used to interact with legislators, express agreement or disagreement with a legislator’s position, and provide links to resources and background information about an issue.
Meeting With Legislators
Meeting with legislators in-person or virtually can be an effective way to advocate on key legislative issues. Opportunities for virtual meetings have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following are some tips for holding in-person or virtual meetings with legislators:
- Contact the legislator’s office with your request to schedule a meeting. Many offices will require that scheduling requests be provided in writing.
- In your request, include your name and contact information, whether you are a constituent (this may be required), whether you represent an organization, the proposed date(s), and the issue you would like to discuss.
- If you are requesting a virtual meeting, you will need access to a virtual video platform (Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) unless the legislator prefers to use their own.
- If your legislator is unavailable to meet at the requested time, ask if there is a staff member available to meet.
- Before your meeting, research your legislator’s position and voting record on the policy or issue.
- During the meeting, present your talking points and provide any data or other information that supports your position. It may be helpful to share a story that helps illustrate the issue.
- Leave behind concise written materials supporting your position or send materials electronically.
- After the meeting, send a thank you note. Reiterate your “ask,” and include any follow-up materials you offered to provide.
The Congressional Management Foundation’s “Face-to-Face with Congress: Before, During, and After Meetings with Legislators” report provides more information about how to schedule and prepare for a meeting with a member of Congress.
Some state legislatures offer information on how to schedule meetings with state legislators and other resources for communicating with legislators. The Oregon State Legislature and the Washington State Legislature publish information about how to set up meetings and visits.
Is it more effective to contact the LEGISLATOR who represents the area where I live or WHERE I work?
Legislators typically want to hear most from those who elect them, so it is best to contact the legislator(s) who represents the area where you live. If you are advocating on behalf of a law library or an organization, you may want to contact the legislators that represent the location(s) of the law library or organization. In those instances, you would want to focus on the impact of the organization on the local community.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO CONTACT MY LEGISLATOR—when an issue is moving or before ANY ACTION HAS OCCURED?
The timing will depend on many factors, including the urgency of the issue, whether your legislator has been involved in the issue in the past, and what you are asking the legislator to do (e.g., vote for or against a bill, co-sponsor a bill, or express opposition to an issue). It is never too early to start building relationships with legislators so that you can establish a relationship before you need them to take an action.
How do I PERSUADE MY LEGISLATOR TO TAKE THE ACTION I AM REQUESTING?
An effective advocacy message appeals to your lawmaker’s interests–including how the issue impacts the legislator’s state or district and how the issue aligns with the legislator’s priorities. To understand what motivates your legislator, it is also helpful to know about their background, including any previous profession(s) they may have had. Legislator’s websites are often a good source for this information. You may want to write down your talking points to help you summarize your message. Creating an “elevator pitch”–a short message requesting a specific action–may also be helpful. Make a specific request and include a couple of data points or a brief story to support your position.
How do I find OTHER GROUPS OR INDIVIDUALS to HELP ME WITH my advocacy issue?
Start by identifying the other stakeholders who may be affected. Depending on the issue, this may include other law libraries, library associations, or bar associations. Talking to others (e.g., law librarians and legal information professionals, AALL chapters, etc.) who have dealt with a similar issue may also help you to identify allies.
my public law library would like to invite a legislator for a tour. what should we consider?
Inviting legislators for a tour of your public law library is one way to provide information about how your law library meets the needs of your organization and your community. Following are some tips for planning a library tour for legislators:
- Before sending an invitation, secure any permissions you may need from your institution. Consider any state or local health measures or other policies that may affect your plans.
- Determine when you would like to host the tour. Consult the legislator’s public calendar or the legislature’s schedule for any clear conflicts. Send the invitation via the contact form on the legislator’s website, using the legislator’s email address, or by following any instructions provided by your legislator’s office.
- If your organization has a public relations or communications department, coordinate with them to plan for the visit.
- If your library is in a government building or other secured building, coordinate with building security staff.
- After your tour, send a thank you note to your legislator along with any materials or follow up items you discussed.