When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best
Back in January, SLA sent a letter to all members in the United States. Signed by the presidents of four major U.S. library associations, the letter urged U.S. members to write, call, or even meet with their elected representatives in Congress and ask for their public support of digital copyright legislation that is library- and information user-friendly. (You can view a copy of this letter by browsing the January Government Relations Update on the SLA Web site.)
While we here at headquarters are definitely "fired up" about the possibilities of gaining clout with governments through grassroots communications, I have been thinking about ideas for maximizing our contact with legislators. First and foremost on my agenda is to find ways to convince more SLA members to write to their elected officials and actually BELIEVE that what they are doing is going to have some impact. This is certainly one of the most imposing hurdles in our efforts to become a major player concerning information policy.
Let me assure you that, if one resides in a democratic nation and votes, one possesses more power than one probably assumes. National legislators may not always show it, but constituent mail definitely draws attention. Multiple letters on one issue will buy more attention for that issue. A flood of letters is guaranteed to push a legislator's buttons.
Letter-writing, especially in a personal manner on a troubling issue, captures the essence of that issue, sometimes more than face-to-face contact. Think about it in your own environment: if you received a handwritten letter from someone who wanted to express thanks, concern, or anger, you would probably take it to heart. Compared with a phone call (assuming it's from someone you don't know very well), a letter gives the reader the impression that the author is truly desirous of communicating thoughts in an organized manner.
Ah, but you're probably saying, "Prove it to me!" Here's one example:
In 1993, President Clinton's health care legislation was being considered in Congress. Committees were holding hearings and considering alternatives for various portions of the bill. During the summer of that year, the future of the bill was in serious doubt. A committee vote was to be held after the August recess, when legislators returned to Washington from time off in their home states. …