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When is the Best Time to Talk?

As with most things, timing is everything. To be effective, you must familiarize yourself with the various stages of the legislative process, which can be lengthy.

Legislative Action Schedule

Six to Eight Months Before Sessions

  • Meet in your district.
  • Compile pertinent local data.
  • Offer model language/concise legislation.
  • Train advocates.
  • Invite potential supporters to the library.
  • Identify allies/collaborators.

When the Session/Budget Cycle Begins

  • Look for the library provisions in proposed legislation.
  • Lobby to amend or delete unacceptable language/concepts.
  • Visit legislative offices when you need to provide information/educate.
  • Monitor library legislation and keep advocates informed.
  • Know when appropriate committees are meeting and time advocate visits and media outreach, i.e., op-eds, editorial board meetings, letters-to-the-editor, accordingly.
  • The President generally submits his proposed federal budget to Congress in early February. Watch ALAWON for updates and action needed.

Throughout the Session

  • Indicate your preferences on legislation of concern.
  • Learn from your mistakes and adjust your strategy.
  • Ask for feedback.

After the Session Ends

  • Attend fundraisers.
  • Thank the legislator/s.
  • Invite lawmakers to visit the library.
  • Give recognition awards and gear up for re-election time.

Before Re-election Time

  • Identify key legislators/policymakers who supported you.
  • Invite candidates to the library to meet staff/users/advocates.
  • Organize and publicize the library agenda.
  • Encourage candidates to include libraries in their “platform.”
  • Cultivate relationships with policymakers and key constituents.

During Primary and General Elections

  • Work behind the scenes.
  • Focus on key committees and get to know their members’ interests and priorities.
  • Maintain informal but ongoing contact with public officials.
  • Continually introduce yourself and identify your issues.

Excerpted from the American Library Association’s A Communications Handbook for Libraries, published in Summer of 2004. To see A Communications Handbook for Libraries in full, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/availablepiomat/online_comm_handbook.pdf.

  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov