(USF MLIS students at the FLA Library Days Advocates’ Reception hosted by Lewis, Longman, & Walker. From left: JoAnn Tebo, Vilma Silva Butym, Peter Cannon, Roxanne Palmer, Brian “Hutch” Hutchison)
Every spring, the Florida Library Association (FLA) hosts a Library Day at the Legislature. Library leaders from around the state gather at the State Capitol in Tallahassee to meet with Legislators in order to advocate for libraries. As future librarians, we are ever mindful of our responsibility to the public. The ethic of service is the polestar of our profession from which all other rights and duties flow. Whether we are engaging patrons at our local public library, educating college students at the USF library, or assisting health professionals create innovative treatment techniques, our commitment to service is an aspect of our profession that comes naturally to us. It is our raison d’être. FLA Library Days was held on Tuesday March 25th. Students were invited, along with FLA and TBLC members, to an Advocates’ Reception hosted by Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A.
Each student was paired with leaders from a Florida county. Below they each share their unique experiences:
(Vilma Silva Butym (center) with members of the Pasco library delegation)
The Florida Library Association (FLA) Library Legislative Day at the capitol was a great experience for me in many ways. It was a great opportunity to be introduced to the librarian community and the legislative world. It was equally unique to be able to witness the budget negotiations between librarians and senators. I had the pleasure to be paired up with Nancy Fredericks, Library Director at Pasco County, and she was amazing. Through Nancy I had the privilege to meet Patty Harrison – Chief Legislative Assistant, Senator Wilton Simpson, Amanda Murphy, and Ralph Lair – Chief Legislative Assistant to Speaker Will Weatherford. It was truly an opportunity to enhance and acquire more knowledge.
-Vilma Silva Butym
I had a fantastic time on our trip up to the capital for a variety of reasons. Since this was my first trip I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. All the librarians at the event were extremely friendly and helpful and it was nice to just meet a group of professionals who are working in the field I want to be a part of eventually. It helped to bring the politics and political situations of our profession to the forefront. The money that is given out doesn’t magically appear. Librarians need to make their voices heard by going to the capital and speaking to movers and shakers in the government. The monies which are given out from the government went from being something very far away that I had only heard about to something I was able to actually speak about and ask for, which was an eye opening experience! I think out of everything though, it was nice to get out of the University and talk to the librarians who are ‘in the trenches’ so to speak and see the passion they have for their profession and the enthusiasm they bring with them. It was really a great experience and I can’t wait to go again next year!
-Brian “Hutch” Hutchison
(JoAnn Tebo (right) with Representative Stark)
I attended Library Legislative Day and met the legislators of Broward County with a group led by the President of the Friends of Broward County Libraries, John Gargotta. I was impressed by the group’s preparation and their courtesy as they addressed the legislators. Furthermore, I was pleased to see that their Florida Representatives knew them by name. The Representatives took the time to speak to each one. Rep. Joe Gibbons was very supportive of libraries and their needs. He had enjoyed reading at his local library as a young boy. We talked about the advantages of strong reading skills for children, and how that may make a remarkable difference in their future life choices, even to helping them avoid jail or prison. Rep. Richard Stark was also sympathetic. He knew how much the recession had impacted library budgets and appreciated the requests for more funding. Rep. Gwendolyn Clark-Reed was well aware of the situation with the Pompano Beach Library, which has been awaiting the start of construction for a few years. The legislators were also appreciative of our USF students’ participation and attention to the political process.
I feel very fortunate to have participated in Florida Library Association’s Library Legislative Day. On Monday, the day before the session, we were able to mingle with library advocates and FLA members from all over the state of Florida. This also served as an opportunity for students to connect with their respective library mentors. We started bright and early Tuesday morning. I was paired up with Gene Coppola, Director of Palm Harbor Library, and other directors from Pinellas County. I found all of my mentors to be welcoming and eager to explain the budget negotiation process. Many of the state representatives and senators we met—including Representatives Zimmerman, Peters, and Dudley as well as Senators Latvala and Brandes—were very open about their support of libraries. I look forward to attending this event next year, and I hope more MLIS students will take advantage of this opportunity!
(Peter Cannon (right) with members of the Jacksonville library delegation)
I, along with other eager graduate assistants and students in the MLIS program, travelled to the capital and joined the Tampa Bay Library Consortium as we shadowed library leaders during their advocacy rounds with politicians and policy makers. I was fortunate to be paired with Barbara Gubbins and Brenda Simmons from the Jacksonville public library system. Having met the night before, I was welcomed into their delegation as we walked the halls of the capitol talking to legislative leaders about this year’s budget. I was amazed and inspired by their advocacy. I was also encouraged by the support we received from people such as Senator Audrey Gibson and Representative Janet Adkins from Jacksonville, both strong and effective voices on behalf of our profession. To them, we didn’t have to answer the question “why they should help us.” Instead, they were concerned with what they could do and how could they help us succeed. Our day concluded with a trip to the Florida Archives at the R.A. Gray building. We learned much about the important work that is done on our behalf by the Division of Library and Administration Services. By the time we left that day, we all had truly learned the power and necessity of advocacy in support of our commitment to service.
More images from our time in Tallahassee:
Driving from Tampa, a 4 hour trip!
Looking quaint at Cracker Barrel.
We stopped by the state library and archives for afternoon tea with the Division of Library and Information Services.
We got to dig into some records at the state archives in support of a project with the Oral History Department at USF Tampa Library.
A special thank you to the Tampa Bay Library Consortium (TBLC) and Charlie Parker for their support and guidance.