On March 11 the White House released its FY2020 federal budget proposal, and for the third year in a row, the president has recommended eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides the main source of federal support for US libraries and museums.
In a statement issued shortly after the budget was released, American Library Association (ALA) President Loida Garcia-Febo said, “As discouraging as it is that the administration has again proposed eliminating IMLS, the bipartisan support in Congress over the past two years gives us reason to hope.”
The president’s proposal slashes IMLS yet again despite his December signature on the bill that reauthorizes IMLS.
ALA is calling on library advocates in every congressional district to contact their representative and ask them to support federal funding for libraries by cosigning “Dear Appropriator” letters to fund the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. The more signatures ALA gets on these letters, the more likely it is that funding for LSTA and IAL will be restored. The deadline for signatures is March 26.
Each year ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy team works closely with congressional staff to produce and circulate these Dear Appropriator letters. The release of these letters marks the first nationwide advocacy action on the federal budget. This Dear Appropriator letter technique is not unique to ALA; because they help shape priorities of the House Appropriations Committee, many interest groups have their champions do the same, which means there’s a lot of competition for a lot of good causes. Find the Dear Appropriator letter signing histories of your representative and senators at ala.org/fundlibraries.
The FY2020 LSTA Dear Appropriator letter, led by US Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), calls on Congress to provide at least $206 million for LSTA. The IAL Dear Appropriator letter, led by US Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Young, calls on Congress to provide at least $27 million for IAL. Companion letters in the Senate will be released in the coming weeks.
Advocacy by ALA members is alive and well. In 2018, we saw an increase in funding for IMLS and reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act through 2025 as well as other important policy accomplishments. These wins represent tens of thousands of emails, phone calls, social media posts, and congressional visits, both on the Hill and in the field, by ALA staff in Washington, D.C., and ALA members across the nation.
ALA’s goal is for every member and staffer to take part in our strategy to restore federal funding for libraries in FY2020. The Public Policy and Advocacy team in Washington started reaching out to every member of the 116th Congress in January. In February we delivered library challenge coins to each member of Congress and held a library card sign-up day on Capitol Hill. In preparation for the budget release, we hosted an advocacy fly-in day for ALA members in targeted congressional districts. Now, we need your voice as the congressional appropriations cycle starts.
To build on the advocacy successes of the past two years, ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy team rolled out a website with new resources, including:
- tips and a sample for writing a letter to the editor of your local news outlet
- guidance for arranging a congressional tour of your library
- more creative ideas for strengthening your relationship with your elected leaders throughout the year
Visit ALA’s action center to contact your member of Congress and sign up to receive action alerts at strategic times as the campaign progresses.
Update, March 25: Corrected deadline for signatures to March 26.