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Ways to Communicate

There are many ways to communicate with legislators. These include:

Personal visits

A face-to-face visit with the lawmaker is the most effective means of communication. It is essential to establish a comfortable working relationship with your elected officials. Schedule a meeting when the governing body is not in session, so there is less competition for the legislator’s time and attention. Call the local office to make an appointment, and if possible, hold the meeting at the library so you can highlight “what’s happening” in your operation. Always call ahead to reconfirm your appointment. (See Tips for Successful Visits.)

LegislativeTelephone calls

Once you have established a relationship, telephone calls are appropriate and easy. Regular contact with staff is possible and desirable. When should you call? Call to ask support before a hearing or floor vote. You also may make an annual call or visit to keep the legislator/staff informed of trends and problems that have surfaced during the year.

Letters

These are the fuel that power the legislative process. Letters are read. Letters elicit responses. They represent votes. Each letter writer is deemed to represent several like-minded, if less highly motivated, constituents. Letters may be formal or informal, typed or handwritten. They should be composed by you, giving reasons for your position and how it will make a difference for the lawmaker’s constituents.

E-mail, fax, telegrams

These are all options, particularly when time is of the essence. Although e-mail is still not popular with some officials, it is growing in acceptance. Follow the Tips for Effective Letters, but keep your message brief. The best option is to call the official’s office and ask which method of communication is preferred. It’s a good idea to call in advance and keep a list of names and numbers handy for quick action.

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