Top: Massachusetts Rep. Seth
Moulton thanks Dianne
Carty, director of the
Massachusetts Libraries Board of Commissioners, for her state
delegation’s visit. L.: Badges for attendees featured “cheat sheets” for
librarians meeting with lawmakers. R: Emily Sheketoff is retiring this
week after 17 years leading the ALA Washington Office (pictured here
with Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, a strong supporter of libraries).
Funding, privacy protections, and
copyright are among the key issues as
librarians visit lawmakers
More than 500 librarians gathered in Washington, D.C., on May 1 and 2 to visit with lawmakers as part of the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day. Despite
facing some of the most serious political challenges in recent
memory, including a proposal by President Trump to eliminate
the Institute of Museum and Library Services (thereby wiping
out virtually all federal library funding), librarians arrived to
some good news: a fiscal 2017 budget deal that spared libraries
from the axe—at least for now.
Released about 2 a.m. on May 1, the 2017 budget deal actually increases federal funding for libraries by roughly $1 million
for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2017. But the message from
ALA officials in Washington, D.C., was clear: the fight for
future funding is already underway. And ALA Washington
Office executive director Emily Sheketoff told attendees that
fight will not be easy.
“This is a very tough year,” Sheketoff told librarians. “If a tax
bill goes through, that means less money [for libraries]; if a wall
goes up, that means less money,” she said, referring to two of
Trump’s signature policy proposals.
In his opening remarks to librarians, ALA executive director
Keith Fiels put things in even starker terms. “Libraries are
facing the challenge of a lifetime,” he said. “This is where the
rubber hits the road.”
Fighting for Dollars
If the challenges facing libraries are great in the Trump era,
librarians certainly appear up for the fight. Attendance at this
year’s National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C.,
was the highest in over a decade. And a thousand more librarians
The event includes a daylong meeting—part master class on
talking to legislators, part primer on key issues and legislation,
and part pep rally—and culminates the following day with
delegations of librarians from each state visiting their representatives. So what issues were foremost for libraries in 2017? Most
prominent: the 2018 budget.
Throughout the opening day, the message was drilled home
for librarians: ask their legislators to fully fund the Library
Services and Technology Act (LSTA) for 2018 at $186.6 million,
appropriate $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to
Literacy (IAL) program, and reauthorize the Museum and
Library Services Act (MLSA).
LSTA is the federal funding program for libraries, with most
of the resources administered through the IMLS as grants to the
states. IAL is a vital literacy program that, among other things,
has supported programs dedicated to digital reading, improving
school libraries, and fostering greater parental engagement with
their children’s reading experiences. And though Congress can
technically allocate library funds without reauthorizing the
MLSA, Sheketoff stressed to librarians the importance of reauthorization. “It says to the president, to the executive branch, that
there is strong support in Congress for libraries,” she explained.