Michigan Librarians’ Defense of Access to Information Goes National
Thank you Michigan library professionals, trustees and friends. Your voice is being heard in Lansing. Last Thursday in the final minutes of the year’s legislative session, language was added to Senate Bill 571 that would make it illegal for libraries, school districts and others to educate their communities about ballot issues.
This attack on free and equal access to information creates criminal and civil penalties for libraries and boards concerning sharing of factual information about their elections within 60 days of Election Day. This language blocks access to unbiased, objective communication and dissemination of information – the very definition of a library’s purpose.
MLA responded immediately to an alert from Jackson District Library director Ishwar Laxminarayan about the legislation and Friday morning MLA dispersed an Action Alert with instructions for library supporters to contact Governor Snyder by email. Nearly 800 concerned Michigan citizens responded. By Saturday morning John Chrastka from EveryLibrary, a national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to political action at a local level to protect public funding for libraries of all types, saw MLA President Leslie Warren’s facebook post of MLA’s Action Alert and contacted her.
After coordination with Leslie, MLA, MLA Legislative Committee chair Lance Werner and MLA lobbyists GCSI, EveryLibrary instituted a social media blitz requesting signatures on a petition to Gov. Snyder asking him to veto SB 571. On Monday, EveryLibrary delivered a petition with 2,000 signatures to the governor. Currently the EveryLibrary petition has gathered 4,070 signatures and the additional petition will be presented soon. Those signers come from across the nation with 67% Michigan residents and 33% from other states. John has been instrumental in getting the message out and we are very appreciative of EveryLibrary’s efforts.
Additionally, MLA sent a letter to the governor from the executive director and president outlining the fact that SB 571 not only limits access to information but explaining how harmful this would be for library funding. In addition we issued a press release and spoke with Library Journal and American Library Magazine. Lance Werner has a guest blog on EveryLibrary’s website.
MLA’s Facebook reach has expanded to more than 36,000 with this initiative. That’s an increase over the couple thousand we usually see. The members tweeting and posting on social media are too numerous to count. But all have been directing their comments to our governor @onetoughnerd.
ALA President Sari Feldman has issued a statement and press release in support of Michigan’s efforts. WDET radio in Detroit will be airing an interview with her as well.
What’s next? The governor has 14 days to sign the bill once it is presented. At this time we do not have any idea when it might reach his desk. There are other groups working against this bill including the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association. In addition the Royal Oak City Commissioners yesterday passed a resolution against the bill. http://www.macombdaily.com/article/MD/20151222/NEWS/151229921
MLA has received messages back that we’ve been effective in informing the governor of our concerns. Now we will wait to see the outcome of SB 571. Thank you again for all your time and efforts. The library community has come together in a monumental way to advocate for libraries and for free and open access to information.
Have a safe and happy holiday and a peaceful New Year.