The White House budget released last week called for the elimination of the only federal agency that supports the nation’s libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Doing away with IMLS would negatively impact every library in the U.S. by eliminating over $200 million in library funding that is distributed to every library in the U.S. through state library agencies. In order to prevent this from happening, there must be a sustained grassroots effort to advocate for restoring IMLS to the federal budget between now and when the budget is finalized in October. Because without those funds, teens will lose access to resources, services and experts they need to help them succeed in school and prepare for college, careers and life.
By now, we hope you’ve already contacted your members of Congress to tell them to oppose the elimination of IMLS. If you haven’t, read the details in my March 16 blog post and take action. Here’s what you can do next: invite one of your Representatives or Senators to visit your library, or bring some of your teen patrons and library advocates to the Congressperson’s local office to meet with them, so your elected official can see up close and in person the many ways that libraries, with support from IMLS, help teens. Congress will be on break from April 8th through April 23rd. This is the perfect time to extend the invitation to visit or schedule a meeting. If you’ve never done this before, don’t sweat it. YALSA’s District Days wiki page has everything you need to extend an invitation and plan a great visit or meeting. When you’re visiting their local office, or showing them around your library, be sure to talk about the ways that your teens benefit from resources funded by IMLS. To find out how your library benefits from IMLS, visit their State Profiles page, and read up about how IMLS funds are used in your state. Another activity that requires your grassroots support is asking your members of Congress to sign onto a letter of support for federal library funding. We’ll be coming back to you later this week with details about that, once ALA has finalized their work around these letters. The time frame is very short for these. The House letters are due April 3rd, and the Senate letters will be due shortly after that. This narrow window of time between now and early April is critical. These letters are used in Congressional Committees when building the budget. If members of Congress do not hear from voters like you and me that library funding is essential, then they are not going to include it in their initial draft budget. Getting library funding added later after budget goes out of committee is much harder than having it included in the beginning stages of planning. So, please plan on mobilizing your library supporters over the next couple of weeks so that every member of Congress is asked by as many voters as possible to sign on to these letters of support. YALSA has a wiki page with some information and tips to help you engage advocates and supporters (the page is for National Library Legislative Day, but the content is adaptable). Thanks for all that you do for teens and libraries!
-Beth Yoke, YALSA Executive Director