A Day on the Hill

By: Beth Given

The last time law librarians converged upon Washington, D.C. for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) was in 1999. This meeting marked the first time the “Day on the Hill” legislative advocacy training was offered, and the first time AALL members went to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives on behalf of issues important to law libraries. Clearly, it was high time for another influx of law librarian lobbyists. Despite oppressive July heat and humidity, more than eighty AALL members joined forces to converge upon the Hill the Friday prior to the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting. This year’s Indiana delegation consisted of Sally Holterhoff, Reference Librarian & Associate Professor at Valparaiso University School of Law and a Past President of the AALL, and Beth Given, who works in the Technical Services department here at Notre Dame Law Library. Prior to arriving in Washington, D.C., meetings were arranged with staff members in the offices of Senator Lugar, Senator Bayh, and Representative Visclosky (IN-1st District).

The 2009 “Day on the Hill” began with a morning of legislative advocacy training with speaker, lobbyist, and “advocacy guru” Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates, LLC. Director Mary Alice Baish and Communications Assistant Emily Feldman of the AALL Government Relations Office discussed the AALL’s legislative agenda, presenting policy briefs on issues such as net neutrality, free access to PACER, Section 215 (the so-called “library” provision) of the USA PATRIOT ACT, and current Senate Resolution 118, a bill which seeks to provide the public with no-fee electronic access to Congressional Research Service reports. After the morning of training and policy briefs, Sally and Beth headed to Capitol Hill for their meetings.

At Senator Lugar’s office they met with Legislative Assistant Joe O’Donnell to encourage the senator to press Chairman Schumer to bring S.Res.118 to consideration in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Senator Lugar is a co-sponsor of this bill, which O’Donnell said he considered a “no-brainer.”

In Senator Bayh’s office they met with another aide to discuss Bayh’s support of public access issues, and the possibility for him to co-sponsor a bill on network neutrality, a topic which has support from President Obama but which has not yet found a champion in the Senate. Their final meeting was scheduled to be with an aide for Representative Pete Visclosky, but the Congressman himself ended up joining. Visclosky is a 1973 graduate of Notre Dame Law School, and had an office filled with Fighting Irish memorabilia. He was extremely receptive to many of the issues they discussed, especially professing his support for the Whistleblower Protection Enhancements Act of 2009, a topic on which his wife has worked. At the close of their meeting he asked after the Notre Dame Law School, and expressed interest in visiting, especially once the renovation has been completed.