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Insider Article [July 2013] [07/02/13] (President's Column)
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President’s Column

photo of Derek Wolfgram

CLA’s Legislative Efforts and the Importance of Membership

As some of you may be aware, this year’s legislative efforts on behalf of libraries have been a wild ride, and it’s not over yet.

Many of you wrote letters in support of SCA 7 (Wolk), a constitutional amendment that would reduce the voting threshold from 2/3 to 55% for library ballot measures. This amendment continues to move forward with strong support, and at each step of the process, legislators have noted the tremendous number of letters they received on the topic. While it’s easy to count on someone else when each of us feel too busy to take on one more activity, these letters have been our salvation, and I hope that library staff and supporters throughout California will continue to respond so enthusiastically to future calls for action – it really does make a difference! Thank you for your participation.

A potential opportunity also arose this winter to dramatically increase broadband access to every public library in California by joining the CENIC network used by the UC and CSU systems, community colleges, and county offices of education. CLA staff and the Legislation & Advocacy Committee jumped at the chance to make a pitch to the State to fund this groundbreaking initiative. In addition, the Committee saw the potential to restore some lost California Library Literacy Services funding at the same time.

Though there were may twists and turns, these proposals gained much traction, due to the tireless efforts of CLA’s lobbyists, Michael Dillon and Christina DiCaro, and our champions in Sacramento like Senator Carol Liu and Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, among others. In both the Assembly and the Senate, in committee after committee, library funding received unanimous, bipartisan support, all the way up through the joint Budget Conference Committee. Ultimately, the funding was cut at the 11th hour due to the State’s decision to use lower revenue forecasts for the upcoming fiscal year.

But we’re not done yet! While no money made it into the budget for broadband, the budget bill did call for the State Library to conduct an assessment of the status of library internet connectivity in California. You’ll no doubt hear about this in the months ahead, and it’s critical that every single library responds. With additional data demonstrating the need, the inroads that were made this year, and the continuing rebound of the economy, I am hopeful that we will have success getting broadband funding into the 2014-15 budget.

When we talk about the benefits of CLA membership, we often focus on the personal benefits of networking, communications, professional development opportunities, and the annual conference. While each of these things is very beneficial and important, it’s important to note that your individual and institutional membership dollars also go towards these legislative efforts to actually generate opportunities and funding for all California libraries.

So I thank you for being a member – your engagement and contributions really do make a difference. And I strongly encourage you to spread the word about the benefits of membership to your colleagues – in order to continue to sustain all of the valuable activities of CLA, we truly need the participation (and, I’ll be honest here, the membership dues!) of every California library worker.

Derek Wolfgram
CLA President