In mid-March 2017, the President of the United States proposed eliminating virtually all federal library funding along with the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the agency that distributes most library funding to every state in the nation. Now budget-cutters in Congress are considering whether to follow his lead. This year, like never before, libraries and everyone who loves them must fight for libraries and tell their members of Congress to support full federal funding. In the immediate near term, we’re asking you to focus on preserving the more than $210 million provided annually for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA, the vast bulk of which is the Grants to State program, population formula funding administered by IMLS comprising two-thirds of the agency’s budget) and Innovative Approaches to Libraries (IAL) programs.
Library champions in the U.S. House of Representatives are circulating two “Dear Appropriator” letters to their colleagues to preserve this federal library funding, one supporting LSTA (PDF) and the other supporting IAL (PDF). The deadline for your Representative to sign on is April 3 so please call your Representative today! The bottom line is about the bottom line: the more Members of Congress who sign the LSTA and IAL letters, the better the chance that the Appropriators will not cut those critical programs.
RIGHT NOW is the time! Pick up the phone and call your Representative in the House to ask them to sign these two important letters to the Appropriations Committee now making the rounds. Can’t get through to DC? Try calling the local district office in your home state. The more members of Congress who sign these “Dear Appropriator” letters, the less likely LSTA and IAL are to be eliminated or cut. But they won’t sign unless you, their constituent, demands it.
Find the phone number and message you’ll convey to the friendly office staff of your Representative at the ALA Legislative Action Center; it’s simple:
“Hello, I’m a constituent. Please ask Representative ________ to sign both the FY 2018 LSTA and IAL ‘Dear Appropriator’ letters circulating for signature before April 3.”
Then tell them why. Share a story about what this funding means for people in your community. How did LSTA or IAL funding support students and improve their learning? Help faculty be more effective in their teaching? What are other members of your community able to accomplish that they wouldn’t have been able to do? If this funding goes away, what will the impact be for people where you live?
Five minutes of your time could help preserve over $210 million in library funding now at risk. While the President proposed eliminating many agencies, Congress is unlikely to defund IMLS wholesale but is likely to severely cut or eliminate “line item” appropriations for specific programs — like LSTA and IAL — that are not demonstrably very broadly supported in Congress. The “Dear Appropriator” letter process underway right now is THE first and best way to demand that critical support from every member of Congress. Since states are required to match about a third of the federal LSTA funds provided through IMLS, federal cuts probably mean state funding cuts too! The Dear Appropriator letters in the House are one part in a larger, longer grassroots effort to win continued support for IMLS. (Learn more about why the fight for libraries this week is so important and read a late breaking appropriations update.) Stay tuned for a similar alert for the Senate letters in the coming days. We need your help this year like never before. Help preserve federal library funding.
UPDATE: Check to see if your Representative has signed the LSTA and IAL letters in this handy database. If your Representative hasn’t signed, give them a call and ask them! And if they have, a thank you call or email never hurts.
Ready for more? Here’s what you can do next:
- Get ready to call your Senators when “Dear Appropriator” letters are circulating in that chamber of Congress
- Stay current by registering for action alerts and follow blog posts from the ALA Washington Office.
- Help staff in the ALA Washington Office tell Congress the best library story: yours. Share your stories about what federal library funding means for your community. Tweet using the #SaveIMLS tag – say how IMLS funding supports your local community.
- Sign up to participate in National Library Legislative Day (May 1-2) either in person or virtually.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to significantly amplify your voice and urge public support for libraries.
- Talk to others on your campus, in particular your government relations staff (typically in the office of the president, provost or external affairs), and tell them why preserving federal funding for libraries should be a priority for them, too. Ask for their help.
- Attend a constituent coffee at the local office when your members of Congress are in their districts April 10–21. Go see them.
- Invite your members of Congress to your campus for a library tour or organize an event and invite them to attend. (Not available? Ask a staff person from the local district office to serve on a panel discussion, hosted at the library.)
At the ACRL 2017 Conference in Baltimore, we heard during a town hall meeting and grassroots writing sessions that ALA has 3 lobbyists for our nearly 60,000 members and one person is only one voice. In other words: we’re only as good as our members are engaged. While postcards are a good first step (and you can download and print ours) we urge you to dedicate yourself to learning to lobby and to commit yourself to regular sustained action. We need ACRL and ALA members, all of us, to join together in, “the fight of our generation.”