As an independent citizen in a democracy you have a great deal of power if you choose to use it. Putting it simply, you can change anything if you vote, speak out, and put your money where your mouth is.
Vote in local, state, and national elections! Only half of us take the time to vote in a presidential election. Voter turnout is far less for state and local elections, an even more tragic circumstance, for local and state elections often have a greater impact on our day to day lives than presidential elections.
Be an educated voter. Find out if candidates for office support funding for school and public libraries, education, and literacy programs. Ask candidates if they support First Amendment Rights. Make sure candidates know your feelings about issues and funding related to young people, literacy, literature, libraries, reading rights, the arts, and education. Vote and donate money to candidates that support your beliefs.
Take the time to contact individual representatives in your local, state, and national government. Let them know how you feel in your own words. Administrators and legislators hear from organized unions, groups, organizations, and associations all the time and often become inured to the same voices saying the same old things over and over. Organized email campaigns are often ignored. If you want to make an impact mail, email, or fax a short, articulate letter or phone a succinct message to your representative telling him or her exactly how you feel. DO NOT COPY A FORM LETTER. And your impact will be much greater if you are a registered voter who has voted in the last election – they can find out that information if they care to. Legislators want to be reelected and they do keep a running tally on the communications they receive from voters.
Write letters and emails to local, state, and national newspapers, television, and media outlets, including Internet blogs that express your opinions and concerns succinctly. Letters to the Editor should be no more than 100 words. Op/ed pieces should be 500 words. The press and media often paint issues in terms of polar opposites. For example, even now they try to pit “phonics” against “whole language” when reporting on reading instruction, when the truth of the matter is that good teachers teach to the individual using a wide range of reading strategies to get and keep kids reading. When the media reports imaginary controversies, reports dated or incorrect information, or quotes inappropriate sources and experts—call them on it, bringing it to their attention respectfully.
Libraries and literacy organizations need volunteers. Check with your local neighborhood library and see how you can help them.
Library and literacy organizations need money to do their great work. Most not-for-profits have a difficult time getting funding that covers basic overhead expenses. One of the best things you can do to help them is to donate money to help them pay for their basic day to day expenses.
Government Contact Information
The President and the White House
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Department of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
FAX (202) 401-0689
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Office of Public and Legislative Affairs
1800 M Street NW, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20036-5802
Phone: 202/653-IMLS (4657)
The United States Congress
House of Representatives
To find and contact your Congressman, visit: house.gov/representatives
To find and contact a committee, visit: senate.gov/pagelayout/committees
To find and contact your Senator, visit: senate.gov/general/contact_information/
State and Local Government
To find contact information for officials in your state and local government, visit the Library of Congress website: