Each year the federal budgeting process kicks off when the White House releases a draft budget. This will happen sometime in February, and there’s talk that the FY19 draft budget may be released on February 12, 2018. If you recall last year, the White House’s draft budget called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as well as all of the federally earmarked funds that the nation’s libraries depend on to provide critical services to their community. However, a grassroots advocacy effort led Congress to keep funding for IMLS and libraries for FY18.
Last month library supporters were called on to contact their Rep in the House. Now it’s the Senate’s turn! Please email, Tweet and/or call the offices of your two U.S. Senators and ask them to sign on to the “dear appropriator” letters for two critical pieces of library funding: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL). Please share this widely and encourage your colleagues, coworkers, friends and family to contact the offices of their Senators as well. This is an extremely tough budget year, and without huge grassroots support (i.e. thousands of voters contacting Congress), the nation’s libraries will lose this critical funding. The deadline to sign the letter is May 19.
- Go here to contact your Senators’ offices: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/home –ready to use messages are waiting for you!
- Check up on your Senators after you contact them. Use ALA’s easy tracking tool to find out if your Senators signed the letters. Then thank them if they did, or contact them again if they haven’t yet done so.
- To learn more about the issue, read this ALA blog post.
Thank you for all that you do to support teens and libraries and don’t forget we have everything you need to be a part of National Library Legislative Day, May 2, on the wiki as well as 10 other ways you can take action right now to support libraries!
P.S. If you’ve been trying by phone to reach your Senator and the lines are busy, try Resistbot instead
If you are anything like the general population you know that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) does SOMETHING with libraries (and museums) but you really have no idea what it does. We hope by now that you know that IMLS is on this year’s chopping block, per the White House’s proposed budget, but aren’t sure how it will affect you, and why it’s a big deal.
And these cuts are a Big Deal. The IMLS is fairly young, as government organizations go, having been created in 1996 by the Museum and Library Services Act (the act combined the Institute of Museum services and the Library Programs Office), and is reauthorized every 5 years, but it touches every state and US Territory in the country. IMLS now supports all libraries- public, academic, research, tribal, and special as well as every type of museum- from children’s to planetariums to history. Over 158,000 museums and libraries combined benefit from IMLS funds every year.
The majority of IMLS support to libraries is the Grants to States program. Grants to States is the biggest source of federal funding for libraries across the country. It is a bit of a misnomer, because these grants aren’t competitive or something that requires an application. Every state automatically receives funding from Grants to States based on population needs, over $150 million dollars in funds is distributed to libraries every year through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Each state receives a base amount of $680,000 and each Territory receives a base amount of $60,000, which is then matched at the state level. (To find out how your state uses LSTA funds visit the IMLS State Profile Page.)
Each state or US Territory is able to determine how they will allot these funds, and many states distribute their library portion through their State Library. These funds support a variety of library functions and operations. States use this money to fund staff at state library agencies, continuing education for library workers, Talking Books programs (books for the blind and physically handicapped), broadband internet access, programs for teens, seniors, and at-risk populations, access to databases and downloadable books, and much more. Visit your state library’s web site to learn more about all of the resources and services they have available to help you help teens.
The IMLS also supports libraries through competitive grants, research, surveys, and policy development. The IMLS works in partnership with state agencies and museums to collect data and distribute the collected information to state and federal agencies. This data is used to identify the upcoming trends in library and museum services and to identify target needs across the country. These trends are studied and policies for best practices and plans to improve them are established. Initiatives on InterLibrary Loan, staffing, library governance, collections and more are developed through these extensive surveys and research.
Without the funding from the IMLS libraries will be facing far-reaching budget and service cuts. We will see the funds for things such as the databases we depend on for research dwindle, the funds for downloadable content dry up, and our state agencies will likely lose valuable staff that support our work at the local level. Statewide library funds will effectively be halved by these measures, putting library services and libraries at risk.
How can you help?
- Be vocal. Contact your national, state and local representatives and share stories about why IMLS funds help teens
- Participate in National Library Legislative Day on May 2
- Bring attention to these cuts on social media #saveIMLS
- Write letters (Use the template that YALSA provides!)
- Take a look at YALSA’s Talking Points for ideas and suggestions
- Read this earlier blog post for 10+ action items you can do right now
- And finally check out the YALSA Advocacy Toolkit
Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/