Conversation with our PA House Representative

After working as a public school librarian for 23 years, I did something for the FIRST time.  I lobbied! And it was a wonderful experience thanks to Deb Kachel and all the supporting material she made available.  As a librarian at North Penn High School, (Lansdale, PA) and a resident of Philadelphia, I am keenly aware of the lack of school librarians throughout the state of Pennsylvania. I wanted the legislator who served a part of our school district to support the co-sponsored house memo: One “Certified Librarian” Per Public School.

On Monday, March 6, Deb Kachel and I had an appointment with State Representative Todd Stephens, who represents the 151st Legislative District, which covers a part of North Penn’s schools.  Deb made the appointment to see Mr. Stephens at his Montgomeryville office after my school day.  But before we went, Deb and I talked on the phone and strategized what we would say.  There are two great documents on PSLA’s website that guided our planning. Talking Points “One Certified Librarian per Public School” Legislative Campaign and the Template for Preparing a Conversation with Your Legislator.

We wanted to keep our meeting short, just 10-15 minutes.  Our goal was to ask the representative for his support for the memo, by either signing on to the memo or supporting if it became a bill. We had three talking points about the need for a certified librarian in every public school:

  1. Importance of digital citizenship and cybersafety
  2. The Instructional role of the librarian
  3. Preparing students for college and career

While we explained our roles as librarians, Mr. Stephens had some questions, explained his point of view, and thanked us for coming to talk to him.  He was very genial and kind, as I’m sure most legislators are when talking to their constituents.  He was genuinely concerned about the students in his district. Our conversation lasted about 30 minutes.  Deb and I left feeling cautiously optimistic, and with a promise to follow up on any outstanding questions Mr. Stephens had.

We both sent an email thanking him for his time and asked him again to support “One Certified Librarian Per Public School” legislation. Now that that legislation has become a bill, HB 740, I look forward to Mr. Stephens’ support and will write to him and ask for it again.

Meeting with my legislator was easy, as I was prepared and had a purpose. It does help to have someone go with you, as Deb and I supported each other with facts, examples, and anecdotes. I finally made the move between wanting to advocate for my profession to actually doing it!   It made me feel good. I look forward now to contacting my city representatives to ask for their help and support for HB 740.

Stormy Vogel is the Head Librarian for North Penn High School and Department Chair for North Penn School District libraries, Lansdale, PA. Library facilitator for the University of the Arts, Teaching with Primary Sources Program in partnership with the Library of Congress. Contact –[email protected]

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