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Tips for Successful Visits

Preparation and planning are the keys to a successful legislative visit. That means having the right message to deliver to the right legislator by the right advocate at the right time.

Keep the delegation—librarian, trustee, Friend or other supporter—small enough for an easy exchange of views. Every member of the delegation should be a voting constituent if possible. Designate a chief spokesperson and decide in advance who will speak when and what he/she will say.

Be on time

Legislators’ schedules are hectic. If you are late, you may miss your window of opportunity.

Be sure to give examples and tell library stories from the legislator’s district

Use the “What’s Your Story?” campaign to collect stories from your patrons on the value of your library to your community.

Dress comfortably and professionally

It may be a long day of visits, but you need to be alert and fresh for each contact.

Be positive

Most legislators and staff are committed, conscientious public servants whether or not they agree with you on a particular issue. Don’t convey negative attitudes about other government officials, the political process, or other types of libraries.

Know your message

Refer to local library and constituent needs. Small talk is fine, but don’t allow yourself to be distracted by talking about the weather or mutual acquaintances. Stay focused.

Be assertive but polite

Ask; don’t threaten or demand. Always appear appreciative.

Remain calm, no matter what

If a legislator asks a difficult question that isn’t germane to the legislative issue being discussed, try saying, “This is an important issue. Could I quickly talk about this bill and then come back to your question because we’d really like to get your perspective.” Most legislators will accept this approach. If he or she insists on proceeding, practice techniques for handling tough or hostile questions.

Don’t get discouraged

If the legislator is called away or is unavailable and you end up meeting with a staff member, take advantage of the opportunity to become better acquainted. Staff members often determine how a legislator votes on a particular bill, so gladly make your “points” with them.

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