While each of us has a responsibility to be an advocate for our profession, there is also a need for coordinating our message of value to our nation’s leaders, including those who manage the purse strings – our Congress.
MLA provides coordinating services for its advocacy efforts by leveraging its highly experienced HQ staff and by working intentionally with sister associations, most often the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL). This strategy saves the Association significantly and outcomes-wise is showing good value for money, due in large part to the strong relationships that MLA staff and leaders have with key stakeholder groups. With AAHSL, MLA several years ago formed a Joint Legislative Task Force that provides leadership and oversight over outreach and messaging to Capitol Hill. The Task Force meets at least once each year, in the spring to address legislative priorities for the two associations, to meet with governmental relations staff from our sister library associations and other organizations including NLM and the AAMC, and to meet with Congressional staff to address issues related to our public policy priorities. Folks may recall that every time the MLA Annual Meeting is held in D.C., Capitol Hill visits are coordinated under the leadership of the MLA Governmental Relations Committee giving our members the opportunity to meet with Congressional staffers to convey our message of value. Legislative Task Force members also participate in making Hill visits at this time.
Together, the Governmental Relations Committee and Joint Legislative Task Force, a seasoned team of Association leaders, have been heading up our national level advocacy efforts, and they are doing a terrific job. In 2011, the AAHSL Board decided to help fund MLA in support of this successful collaboration. The GRC and members of the TF have worked hard this past year on two of MLA’s key advocacy objectives: improved funding for NIH and the national research agenda, and enhanced support for the National Library of Medicine. Both MLA and AAHSL have been especially busy of late:
· On January 30, MLA and AAHSL submitted a joint letter in opposition to the proposed Research Works Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), stating that “This act would restrict access to information generated through public funds, overturn the successful NIH public access policy, and prohibit other federal agencies from establishing similar policies.”
· AAHSL and MLA are now considering a collective, positive response to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which was re-introduced in the House of Representatives on February 9. This legislation is sponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO). Senate sponsors are Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and possibly Sen. Durbin (D-IL). FRPAA is essentially the mirror opposite to the Research Works Act and would ensure public access to Federally-funded research.
National-level advocacy relies on all of us to pay attention to what is happening in our Congress with legislation that impacts the important and valuable work that we do. The Joint Legislative Task Force, along with MLA’s Governmental Relations Committee and the GRC’s of our regional Chapters, all play critical roles of filtering out the legislative “noise” and focusing our collective attention on advocacy issues of true national (and international ) importance.
When you see alerts issued from the GRC, the Joint Task Force, or by MLA HQ, or by your Chapter’s GRC, please pay attention and consider your role as part of our collective advocacy strategy. Let your representatives in the House and Senate know what you think!