Keep in mind that most state legislatures are only in session part-time, so try to get the number for your legislator's district office. Telephone calls are often taken by a staff member and not the actual legislative member. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue to which you wish to comment. If they are not available, you may also leave a message. If you speak with someone other than your legislator, take down their name and title.
Upon reaching your state legislator on the phone, it's easiest to follow these four basic steps:
1. IDENTIFY yourself by name and the organization (if any) that you represent or the town from which you are calling.
2. EXPLAIN why you are calling: "I am calling to support/oppose House Bill: HB_____, Senate Bill: SB_____. " Be polite and concise. Creating 1 or 2 talking points will focus the content of your message. Too much information may confuse your message. Ask your legislator his/her position on this issue. Don't assume that your legislator has prior knowledge of your issue. Be calm, respectful, and be prepared to educate, using local examples to accentuate your point.
3. REQUEST a written response to your phone call if you did not speak to your legislative member. If the legislator requires further information, provide it as soon as possible.
4. THANK the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.
The letter is a direct way to communicate with a state legislative office. When writing a letter, this list of suggestions will improve its effectiveness:
1. Individually written letters, rather than mass generated form letters, make a greater impression on your legislator. Type your name, address, and phone number at the top.
2. Most state legislatures are only in session part of the year. The New Jersey State Legislature is in session January 12, 2010 through January 10, 2011. When the legislature is out of session, it may be more effective to send your letter to your legislator's district office, if the legislator has one.
3. Addressing correspondence:
To the State Senate
The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol, (Room Number)
New Jersey Senate
Trenton, NJ 08625
To the State General Assembly
The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol, (Room Number)
New Jersey General Assembly
Trenton, NJ 08625
4. Be specific. Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, be sure to identify its full name and number, e.g. House Bill: HB_____, Senate Bill: SB_____.Try to send your letter while the issue is still alive.
5. State your position. Explain why you support or oppose this particular issue. Keep in mind that local examples concerning the impact of this legislation are very powerful. Be courteous and to the point, keeping your letter focused on one issue.
6. Ask for a response. Indicate to your legislator that you would appreciate a reply containing his/her position on the issue. "Sincerely yours" is a proper way to conclude your letter.
7. Follow up. If you agree with your legislator's vote, take the time to let him/her know that. Similarly, if you disagree with his or her vote, inform your legislator.
Posted by Nancy Dowd, of the New Jersey State Library, on the New Jersey State Library Marketing Blog.
As libraries continue face an uphill battle for funding, your local press may play an important role in communicating the impact budget cuts will have on members in your community. While the old adage may be that any media is good media, that’s not really the case when it comes to gaining support for your library.
A good interview with a reporter is fairly simple with the proper preparation. There was a great interview with Leslie Berger in the Princeton Packet last week. What makes it so powerful is that she successfully connected the proposed budget cuts to how they will impact her library. Every paragraph is a talking point that matters to her community.
Here are a few tips that will help you prepare for an interview:
1. Prepare your key messages
Know the most important facts you want the reporter to know. For example, in the case of the current proposed cuts, the key message would be that the proposed cuts would eliminate state funding for all NJ libraries and how they will impact your library specifically.
2. Offer the reporter additional contact information
Give the reporter the names and phone numbers of other people relevant to the article, don’t forget NJLA and NJSL:
Pat Tumulty, Executive Director of NJLA 609- 394-8032
Norma Blake, NJ State Librarian 609-278-2640
Do you have champions willing to share their story with a reporter?
Collect the names and contact information of a couple of people who have directly benefited from the essential services your library is providing and ask them if they’d be willing to talk to reporters. For those of you who took the Strategic Storytelling workshop, it’s time to start your storybank!
NJSL has some stories posted on www.njlibrarychampions.org. If there are people from your library listed, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the contact information. Look for stories from people your library has helped solved a problem that affirms the points you are making such as a person who needed the online resources, Internet to get a job, books through delivery, etc. Make sure you’ve called your contacts to be sure they want to speak to a reporter.
3. Notes are good
Always have your notes handy to make sure your facts are correct. When you are speaking to a reporter over the phone: sit up straight, smile and relax your voice. Have a fact sheet that you can share with the reporter and offer to email it. If you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t be afraid to tell the reporter that you’ll need to get back with an answer or let him or her know the person who can answer the question.
4. Offer to send photos
It’s a good idea to have a few high-resolution photos of your library that would help enhance the story. Here’s is a great opportunity to use those photos you took for Snapshot Day!
EXAMPLES OF FACTS YOU’D NEED TO KNOW IF ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT BUDGET CUTS
In order to make sure your interview with reporters and elected officials meaningful, you’ll want to collect the following information and have it at your fingertips at all times!
1. Know your facts: what will the proposed cuts eliminate?
Local libraries will lose ALL access to shared resources, interlibrary loan and statewide delivery; and all electronic resources on health care, business, and education. Over 200 libraries in New Jersey will lose email capability, internet access and help desk services as well. In addition, a 50% reduction for Per Capita State Aid will result in reduced funding for library staff and materials.
NJLA has set up a great page: savemynjlibrary.org
2. Know the complete story
Be aware of all the issues facing libraries. For example, Assemblyman John DiMaio has introduced A2555 which eliminates the minimum local funding requirement for municipal public libraries. If passed, there is no guarantee your municipality will continue to fund your library and could result in many libraries closing their doors or drastically reducing their hours. The best way to stay on top of any new developments is to sign up on capwiz.
3. Know how any cuts will impact your library:
• Overall cost of cuts to your library
• The cost to your library to replace the statewide databases.
• The amount your library will lose if Per Capita State Aid is cut in half.
• How many books does your library receive and send through ILL- use the statewide calculator to estimate the cost to your library.
• Connect the dots between your library’s budget loss /flat funding and the loss of funding from the state.
• Know the ways your library is helping people get jobs and have those stats and percentage of increase- job seekers, computer classes, Internet use, etc.
• Know a specific people who have directly benefited from the essential services your library is providing. You’ll want to use these stories to emphasize your points or allow the reporter to contact them if the person has agreed to talk to a reporter already.