An IMLS Overview

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?

Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/

How You Can Save Federal Funding for Libraries & Help Teens

The White House budget that was released March 16 calls for eliminating the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), the only federal agency charged with providing support to the nation’s hundreds of thousands of libraries and museums. Now it’s up to Congress to decide whether or not they want to change that.  ALA and YALSA need your help to ensure that IMLS is saved, because without libraries teens will not have the resources and support they need to succeed in school and prepare for college, careers, and life.  Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Connect with your members of Congress when they’re in their home districts July 29 – Sept. 4.  Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library.  YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
  2. Adapt this sample letter to the editor and send it to your local paper
  3. Use the sample messages in this document to contact the offices of your members of Congress
  4. Share your photo or story via this form of how support from IMLS has enabled you and your library to help the teens in your community.  YALSA will use this information to advocate against the elimination of IMLS
  5. Sign up via this web page to receive updates on the #SaveIMLS effort
  6. Join YALSA, or make a donation, because together we’re stronger.  YALSA’s the only organization that supports and advocates for teen services. Dues start at $61 per year.  Your support will build our capacity to advocate for teens and libraries
  7. Add this #SaveIMLS Twibbon to your social media graphics & put a similar message in your email signature
  8. Make plans to connect with your Senators when they’re in their home districts Oct. 7 – 15.  Or connect with your Rep in the House Oct. 16 – 22, when they’re home in their district.  Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library.  YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
  9. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the above as well
  10. Are you a daughter or son of Donald Trump? Then please ask him to rescind his proposal to eliminate IMLS and all federal funds earmarked for libraries. Many thanks!

Don’t know much about IMLS?  Here’s a quick overview: through IMLS, every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories receive funding to support their state’s libraries and museums.  In FY14 the total funding IMLS distributed to states and territories was $154,800,000.  In addition, IMLS offers competitive grant opportunities that individual libraries and museums can apply for.  In FY14 they awarded 594 grants (from 1,299 applications) totaling more than $54,700,000.  Visit the IMLS site to see how much funding your state receives from them.

Want to take further action to support teens and libraries?  We salute you!  Check out the free online resources we have to make speaking up for teens and libraries easy.

Only 72 hours to go! Ask your senator to support library funding!

Email or phone your senators offices now to support library funding and ask your library supporters to do so as well!’  Please feel free to forward this message.

To take action, please take the following steps:

  1. Please go to http://capwiz.com/ala/ and click on “call your senators now to support library funding.”
  2. Scroll down and customize the sample email message as you see fit — remember, a brief but personal story on how your library and its staff help your community matters the most!’  Change the subject heading to “please sign the Dear Appropriator letter for libraries.”
  3. Enter your contact information.
  4. Press “Send Message.”
  5. If you would prefer to call your senators offices, feel free to dial the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask for your senator.’  The switchboard will transfer you to their office.’  If you don’t know who your senator is, visit here and type in your zip code http://capwiz.com/ala/.
  6. Please ask your friends and supporters to call.’  We need as many individuals to contact the senators as possible so they know this is an important issue and that voters want them to support it.

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