Library advocates make the local editorial pages

In response to President Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts, library professionals and supporters have sent a clear message to members of Congress and in their local editorial pages (see our previous post on writing letters to the editor). While the proposed elimination of IMLS and deep funding cuts for libraries is not news to us, many (if not most!) people in our communities are ignorant of this potentially devastating and imminent threat to our nation’s libraries.

Pile of letters with "Letters to the Editor" written on top

Image from SequimGazette.com

Library professionals are trusted leaders in their communities as well as experts in the library. It is more important than ever for librarians to use their respected status to influence public opinion on a broader scale. To inspire all of us to speak out in our local media – especially during National Library Week, which kicks off on Sunday – we’re highlighting just a few of the many letters to the editor in support of library funding that have been published over the past couple of weeks:

Proposed budget would hurt libraries,” The Salem (MA) News 
One strength to highlight about this letter, written by Teen and Reference Librarian Anna Tschetter, is her specific reference to how individual citizens will be affected by cuts: “local governments would have to bear the burden of coming up with the funds, or voters would lose access to critical services like job training, early literacy programs, homework help and free access to digital tools that many of us cannot afford at home.” The examples she uses include workforce training and digital tools – both of which are particularly compelling to Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle because of their direct link to the economy. In addition, she issues a call to action by asking her “members of Congress to show their support by ensuring that IMLS is not defunded.”

Support libraries,” The Daily Courier (Prescott, AZ)
Anthony Zades’ letter mentions his members of Congress by name: “I agree with the American Library Association (ALA) who calls this action ‘counterproductive and short-sighted.’ I hope that Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as Representative Paul Gosar will also agree with the ALA and me.” The fact that he uses their names is significant because communications staff in congressional offices scan news clips for specific mentions of the congressperson’s name – so we can be 95% sure that staff for Rep. Flake and Senators McCain and Flake actually saw Anthony’s letter the very same day it was published. (It’s a plus that Anthony mentions ALA by name as well!)

Voice support for IMLS funding,” The News-Courier (Athens, AL)
Past President of the Alabama Library Association Paula Laurita uses language that gets at the bottom line for budget-conscious members of Congress when she writes that “Libraries… deliver one of the best returns on investment for tax dollars.” In addition, Paula includes a brief yet powerful anecdote that exemplifies this point: “One such person had just left an abusive marriage. She enrolled in her library’s computer classes, resume class, and interview skills class. With her new knowledge she was able to find full-time employment. She was able to leave public assistance and support herself and her children. This wouldn’t have been possible without a grant made possible through IMLS.”

Preserve IMLS,” Moscow-Pullman (WA) Daily News 
In a letter penned by Whitman County Library Director Kristie Kirkpatrick, she demonstrates the success of her library system by including local statistics: “Last year, attendance at Whitman County Library classes and programs reached an all-time high of 39,000.” Kristie’s letter, like Paula’s, appeals to the common sense in local taxpayers’ prioritizing libraries: “You won’t see a better return on your investment than tax support for libraries… IMLS funds stretch our local dollars.”

Keep up the great work, and please let us know if you get published. ALA Washington Office staff often share local media coverage of libraries when they go on Hill visits, and absolutely nothing is more persuasive to members of Congress and their staff than voices from back home. What’s more, you can amplify your own message by sending a link to your published letter in a personal email to your members of Congress.

About Shawnda Hines

Shawnda Hines is the press officer of the American Library Association's Washington Office. Contact her at shines[at]alawash[dot]org.

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