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"ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL, in Boston as well as in Helena," says John Finn, president of the Montana Library Association. Indeed, while the folks at the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office are working for libraries on the national level, it's the librarians, trustees, Friends groups, and patrons who get the hard work done in each state. They do it one step at a time, building and sustaining classic grass-roots support year in, year out. For some politicians, the effort works, for others it is barely enough to keep the library hat in the ring.
"Librarians don't think they're doing enough, but that is not true," says New York State Senator Hugh Farley (R), a library advocate who defended the state's libraries against drastic cuts last year and would like to see libraries funded in pace with education. "They are extremely respected by their own legislators." If all politicians were as taken with libraries as Farley is, librarians wouldn't have so much work to do.
For many legislators, however, libraries come up only when there is a crisis. The rest of the time libraries are loved by everyone, says Idaho State Senator Marti Calabretta (D), but with an affection that is "on automatic pilot." Taken for granted all too often, they are vulnerable to erosion of support when other priorities dominate both the political scene and the committee work.
Across the board, libraries can get lost in the shuffle of the poor economy. national and local security concerns, and workload increases for legislators. At the same time, savvy advocacy programs that tune politicians in to the needs of …