Back to School LEGISLATIVE VISIT When people think of school libraries, too many still picture quiet, regimented places where students and staff simply check out materials. A school library visit is a powerful tool for demonstrating the essential and unique contributions made by school libraries and librarians to the preparation of students for life and work in a technologically sophisticated and information-based global economy.

This guide will help you plan, prepare and provide a meaningful and successful experience for legislators.

In addition to inviting legislators to the library, invite other high profile decision makers and leaders. Has your state librarian ever worked in a school library? If not, invite that individual. The next time they are speaking to a legislator or giving testimony, they will have concrete experience and examples to share.


The basics for planning a visit:

First steps:
o Obtain permission from building and district level administration before planning a visit.
o Identify dates when information skills are being taught in the library. The visit needs to demonstrate the kinds of learning that take place in 21st Century School Library Programs. Avoid scheduling a visit that focuses solely on books and reading. These are important parts of the school library role, but school librarians desperately need to expand our “brand.”
o Clear the visit with potential collaborating teachers.
o Contact the congressional office with an invitation to visit your library.
o Provide several possible dates.
o Indicate that the press will be contacted and invited to attend once the date is confirmed.
o Notify administration and collaborating teacher of visit time and dates.
o Contact reporters (both student newspaper and professional) with dates and times. If your district employs PR or Communications Personnel, be sure to confer with them before contacting the press. Most times, PR staff will willingly do this for you and already have established contacts.
o Arrange for a parent, student, or teacher to take pictures during the visit. Follow any district guidelines about including students in photos. Pictures can later be posted on the library’s website or in school newsletters.
o Optional: Contact your PTA/PTO and request assistance with hosting the visit. If time and schedules permit, the PTA/PTO could host a reception at lunch or after school. Invite PTA/PTO, school board, and administrators to attend. (Caution: Avoid inviting other dignitaries to the library during the actual visit. Other visitors might distract from the purpose of the visit. It is important that the visit focus on learning and instruction in the library.)
o Optional: Enlist help from a retired librarian to plan, set-up and host the visit.

Preparing for the visit:
o Prepare a packet including:
o Standards-based lesson plans for the week’s lessons
o A copy of the library’s schedule
o The AASL Standards for the 21st- Century Learner < http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/standards.cfm>
o Copies of state library content standards
o Key 21st Century Skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills <http://www.p21.org/documents/P21_Framework.pdf>
o Information about electronic resources for students research and use
o Post the library’s schedule in a prominent position.
o Make sure the library’s webpage is current and clearly visible on computers.
o Assign students to meet and greet the legislator at the school office when he or she arrives.
When designing the visit, remember the goal is for congressional decision makers to observe and understand the instructional and collaborative roles of school librarians. The profession is already branded relative to our contributions to reading. Each visit affords an opportunity to expand our brand as teachers of 21st Century skills.

During the visit:
First of all, breathe, smile and remember this is about teaching and helping students and teachers. This is why you are a school librarian. Make the students and teachers your primary focus. Do what you normally do during the school day and the visit will be great!
Encourage students to continue their independent research in addition to the scheduled class(es). Encourage students and teachers to talk with the school board member. Ask some students to demonstrate databases or what they are researching.
Possible talking points (as time permits and appropriate):
o ESEA reauthorization http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/esea/esea.cfm
o Cross-curricular collaboration and lifetime learning skills
o Equitable access to information, You and technology and books
o Technology integration
o Assessment practices
o Evidence-based practice (if you are trained and use it)
o Teaching content standards
o Problem solving and critical thinking skills
o Information ethics and responsibility instruction
o Internet safety

After the visit:
o Send a handwritten thank you note that summarizes the skills students learned during the visit.
o If the news article has been published, include the article.
o If not available, send the article to all interested parties as soon as it is published.


Thank you to OELMA and PSLA for sharing information from their Legislative Visit Guides.
PSLA Legislator@ Your Library Campaign http://www.psla.org/index.php/legislation/legislator-your-library-campaign
Includes examples of invitations, thank yous, press releases, and a list of possible activities that can occur during a visit.
Also include handouts that can be adapted to your state and school to present to the legislator as a “take away.”