Welcome to the RILA Bulletin Spotlight Series, where we feature the important work of a different RILA or RI library section, committee, roundtable, initiative, or organization in each issue.
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June 2021 Spotlight: RILA Legislative Action Committee
This month, we talked to Ed Garcia, Chair of the RILA Legislative Action Committee. Ed is the Director of Cranston Public Library.
What is the mission or purpose of the RILA Legislative Action Committee?
The Legislative Action Committee is responsible for recommending a legislative plan for the Association. The Committee assists and advises the Executive Board and the membership in appropriate action to affect proposed legislation.
What made you personally interested in being involved with this organization?
I've always been very interested in the power of advocacy, [in] being able to talk to a legislator or an official and influence their decision making. Advocating for an issue—in this case, the importance of libraries—and telling the stories of how we impact the lives of our users has always been an important part of what I do as a Library Director and advocate.
What is the proudest achievement of the Legislative Action Committee?
The Committee has been very successful in recent years. We successfully advocated for $1.1 million in additional state aid to RI public libraries. Working with our School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) colleagues, we were able to leverage some legislative advocacy into working with the RI Department of Education to have the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) National School Library Standards officially adopted.
What ongoing challenges does the Legislative Action Committee face?
We are constantly working to achieve full funding of state aid to libraries as prescribed by law.
If money and time were not an issue, what is the number one wish list item of this Committee to support its mission or purpose?
It would be nice to have enough time, money, and people to produce more advocacy communications to go to not only RILA members but to the general public in support of libraries.
What partnerships with other groups or individuals (inside or outside of RILA) have been most beneficial for this Committee to meet its goals or objectives?
Within RILA, being able to work with sections like SLRI on important issues is key. Also being able to learn from advocates at the Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA) has been personally impactful to me. Being able to work with and learn from amazing library advocates like Joan Ress Reeves and Rose Ellen Reynolds, both of whom helped found COLA, has been a privilege. We also work closely with both the ALA Public Policy and Advocacy office and Chapter Relations office to advocate to our federal delegation in Congress. Rhode Island is the envy of other states because of our strong presence in Congress, with incredible library supporters in Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin.
Is the Legislative Action Committee looking for new members, and how can those interested get involved?
Please visit https://www.rilibraries.org/advocacy and sign up for advocacy updates and to stay informed on advocacy-related issues.
What book are you reading now that you’d like to promote?Dark Work: the Business of Slavery in Rhode Island by Christy Clark-Pujara. This book was eye opening about the history of slavery in Rhode Island. Even after slavery was abolished in the North, Rhode Island was still in the business of producing goods that supported slavery in the South.