Kansas HB2719 post-hearing reflections

TL;DR :

  1. Legislative Update HB2719 from Kansas Library Association
  2. Storify of yesterday’s social media posts and news coverage [because, what do librarians do along with everything else that we provide to our communities through our services? We curate and repackage information for public consumption]

Personal reflections follow (and it gets lengthy…I captured these for my own thoughts and archive; if anyone else is interested, that’s great; if not, I completely understand if you don’t make it all the way through!).

Note: those foam fingers have been around for months. They were not created or designed for Monday’s advocacy efforts. 

The House Taxation Committee hearing was yesterday for Kansas HB2719, the bill that could threaten the Kansas library service model as it exists today.

Needless to say, Kansas librarians and library and rural advocates called and wrote and shared. It was quite moving to watch the social media advocacy streams online [which I hope to archive by the end of the week in a separate Storify] after a few emails with talking points and a few pointed social media posts, seemingly created a firestorm online. But would people show up on Monday to the hearing? And furthermore, would the legislators listen? And understand how detrimental this bill would be to the Kansas library service model?

Pre-Hearing

I figured we might fill the 52 audience seats in 582N. Maybe.

Ha! We packed the room. And into the hall.

I should have never even questioned the determination of Kansas librarians and their advocates. Those institutions and people are incredibly loved by their communities. That was evident as librarians and library advocates packed that room, waved foam fingers, and rural Kansas advocates came in support,especially as the bill could potentially impact other rural entities, including fire districts and water districts, among others.

Side bar: A couple of people from the Game On for Kansas Schools community were there, out in the hall. THANK YOU Devin and Judith (and any others who may have been there). After your long several days with the #w4kskids initiative over the weekend (especially, you, Devin, after you walked from Emporia to Topeka over three days), it meant the world to me to see you both after the hearing, even though we had never met in person until yesterday! So sorry for the exuberant hugs. :)

Your effort yesterday makes me more determined to figure out how to change the narrative and raise up support for equitably and adequately funding Kansas public education, its educators, schools, and kids. Librarians facilitate educational opportunities for all ages. We are in this together. Kansas communities of all sizes deserve to have an educated population, that is funded for all (which means public funding). Period. /end sidebar

Marci Penner of the Kansas Sampler Foundation rallied her network. I was told over the weekend that Marci was “the biggest advocate for rural communities that you will ever know.” And when she came into that hearing room yesterday, you’d have thought a rock star arrived. :) She knew so many people already and wanted to meet all those that she didn’t already know. She’s an incredible woman. And I’m so thankful I got to meet her and now call her a friend. Kansas is lucky to have Marci in her corner.

The Hearing

The hearing started. I’m not going rehash it moment by moment here. You can track what went on in the room where it happened (couldn’t resist) through the Storify I curated. I’ll provide some highlights below, but if you want to understand what happened, and all the moments in the hearing, scroll through that Storify.

HB2719 was the bill that had the committee hearing. The revisor’s office posted a fiscal note for the bill, explaining the bill’s overall purpose.

I was tweeting from within the hearing, a KPR reporter was tweeting, and several others were tweeting, as well; I tried to add all the tweets I could find about the hearing to the Storify.

Here’s a few selected tweets and moments from the hearing. George Cooper is a reader at Bonner Springs City Library; my emotions stayed in check, until his testimony. Hearing him sing praises of the regional shared catalog system that I’ve managed for three years, and worked with since 2008, I’ll admit it: the tears welled up.

There was also a little bit of humor, as librarians in the room got a little bit rowdy, breaking out into applause after a couple of points made during the committee questioning, and Chairman Kleeb had to chastise us. He sounded a little sheepish doing it — shushing the librarians??

One person spoke in favor of the bill, and one person gave neutral testimony (on the water district sections).

Someone from Washburn University testified against the bill (due to Section 13), and the rest of the opposition testimonies on behalf of libraries were each informative and impactful. Testimony included that by TSCPL CEO Gina Millsap on the bill’s impact to Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library; Leavenworth Public Library Director Matt Nojonen, on the local public library impact, as well as the regional library system impact; George Cooper a reader from Bonner Springs Library; and Roger Carswell, Director at Southeast Kansas Library System. Committee members asked engaging and clarifying questions, particularly Rep. Tom Sawyer, and Chairman Kleeb repeatedly brought up his point from the beginning, that

It became clear throughout the hearing that the bill had a number of unintended consequences. And, it was an opportunity for the enormous impact of the Kansas regional library systems to be on display.

Rep. Wolfe-Moore remarked after a question:

Written testimony was also submitted by numerous librarians and library board members and library advocates. I know there was a lot, and I’m not sure how much of it made it to the hearing. There will be a concerted effort to publicly archive that testimony in the very near future by the Kansas Library Association. Again, it’s what librarians do. We tell stories of our community, and why not tell the story of our own library and librarian community?

Several people shared photos on Facebook and Twitter throughout the afternoon, and those that were public, I added to the Storify as well.

As the hearing ended, Chairman Kleeb made these comments before adjourning the Taxation Committee hearing:

Chairman Kleeb also said as he visited with a few librarians after the hearing, including me,

I also briefly spoke with Rep. Hineman, who wanted a message to come back to the Kansas library community and our advocates:

So what’s the outcome? What’s next?

Well, we don’t know for certain yet, but here’s the possibilities that Eric Gustafson (KLA Govt Affairs Committee Chair) shared:

I’m sure the question that many of you have is: Where does the bill go from here? What’s next? There are several possibilities.

First, the committee chair could set a time and date for the committee to “work” the bill. In this scenario, they would try to amend the bill and pass it out of committee to the House. If this were to happen, we would definitely need to reach out to our representatives.

Another possibility is that the chair could choose to not bring this bill up again this session. Since this is an election year, if it does not make it out of committee, this bill would need to be reintroduced next year. This would be the best scenario for us.

There are a few other options for the bill, but the two that I have mentioned are the most likely. We are closely watching this bill and we will definitely get the word out if it should start to move forward!

What are the Kansas regional library systems, you may be asking, even after reading through the Storify from the hearing? I’ll be adding a post tomorrow that answers that question.

Media coverage

Numerous news stories have been posted about the hearing. It’ll be interesting to see how many small-town newspapers will publish stories about this hearing in the coming days and weeks. Here’s what I’ve found so far and also added the links to the end of the Storify. Please let me know if you find more stories posted online. I’ll get them added to the archive.

Reflections from Monday night

I posted several things publicly on Facebook yesterday evening, including processing the afternoon by remembering Valley Falls librarian Kay Lassiter, who suddenly passed away in 2012 (she was the librarian in the town where my parents have lived for almost 20 years), a photo with Marci Penner and Alice Smith (NEKLS Board Member, Carbondale City Library Director, and current SLIM MLS student), and one about advocacy lessons.

Marci Penner had a couple of great recaps: “Libraries rock. Librarians rock, too…” and also thanked her “…network for the (at the time) 923 shares…We can make our communities whatever we want them to be when we use our energy in a positive way to move forward.”

KLA President Kelly Fann, gave a succinct summary of the day on Facebook, commenting. “Librarians are quiet. Until you mess with us.”

I also posted a series of tweets, reflecting on the day:

What are my final takeaways? 

As many of you are aware, I’m leaving NEKLS in early August, to move to Syracuse, NY, where I’ve been accepted to full-time study in Syracuse Univeristy’s Ph.D. program in information science and technology, where I’ll be focusing on my studies on rural library impact. That process was put into motion more than two months before the events of the past week. I’ve known for more than a month now that I’d be leaving the Kansas library community.

But tonight, I’m more committed than ever to working to tell the unique Kansas library story, research and understand the impact of rural libraries, and once my education is complete, I plan to continue to advocate for rural libraries and for public libraries, and may someday, sooner rather than later, return back home to Kansas.

It was a very hard decision to decide to move on and leave NEKLS after nine years. It’s been the only library organization I’ve worked for. I’ve made lifelong friendships throughout the state. Kansas librarians have transformed how I see our profession, and made me even more proud to be a native Kansan.

Kansas librarians do good work, in spite of limited budgets, spaces, and staffing in so many places, and serve their communities of all sizes in incredible ways, including what the Cimarron City Library was providing to media outlets yesterday morning, after the Southwest Chief train wreck…and made a subtle point about the hearing to come in the afternoon.

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The Kansas state motto is “Ad Astra Per Aspera.” It’s been a difficult several years in Kansas. A lot of angst. A lot of frustration and finger-pointing.

But my hope and prayer is that what happened in 582-N yesterday could be a small sign that when everyone gathers, listens respectfully, and information is gathered, that the legislative process can work.

Thanks to the House Taxation Committee for allowing the librarians to show up, take over your committee room, and tell our uniquely Kansas story.

If you have a moment and you’re still reading this post, you might consider writing some thank you notes to the committee members, if you were in the room where it happened on Monday. Or even if you weren’t there.

And, to close, as WIBW 580 Reporter Nick Gosnell stated in his excellent commentary Tuesday morning, “One thing is clear, librarians are smart people. They showed that on Monday.”