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Library funding dance: two steps forward, one step back

Congratulations . . . and thank you! Over the past two weeks, we’ve issued several calls-to-action asking you to ask your Members of Congress in both chambers to sign four letters urging their colleagues on the powerful Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate to support maximum funding in FY 2017 for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) programs. And you really responded!

Two shoes, one further ahead than the other
One step forward

Nearly every Member of Congress (529 out of 535) got at least one of the 14,000+ emails, over 740 tweets, and many phone calls with which you answered our call, and some local Congressional offices were even visited personally by library advocates! All that work was rewarded with strong bipartisan support for our four LSTA and IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters, which, on balance, garnered essentially the same solid number of signatures this year as last. That delivered a strong message of support for these critical programs to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they begin to sharpen their budget cutting axes in earnest. But . . .

Your support, and those letters, didn’t arrive a moment too soon. For the second year in a row, with the blessing of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the formal Resolution released by the House Budget Committee (a non-binding document that nonetheless conveys the majority’s philosophy) expressly suggests that ALL federal library funding — and with it the Institute of Museum and Library Services that administers LSTA — could be completely eliminated to achieve the House majority’s budget-cutting goals! Regardless of whether this Budget Resolution is adopted (they often aren’t), it’s just the beginning of the FY2017 appropriations process. Sadly, LSTA and IAL will be on the potential “chopping block” almost until year’s end.

So, our advocacy for and defense of LSTA and IAL will need to be an ongoing effort. As critical votes near, there will certainly be more calls-to-action coming. (If you haven’t already, please do take a few seconds now to sign up for future alerts.) Meantime, there’s one sure-fire way to help keep support for LSTA and IAL strong: say “Thanks!” to your Senators and Representative if they signed our LSTA and/or IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters.

That’s as easy as one, two three:

  1. Check out this handy “Champions” chart of who supported LSTA and/or IAL.
  2. If you see at least one of your Member of Congress’ names, or if you want to find out who your Members are, enter your zip code here.
  3. Just click on their name(s) in the list that pops up to email them directly.

Of course, if you’d prefer to tweet or call our LSTA and IAL supporters instead that would be great too. After checking out our Champions chart, consult the Member directories for each chamber linked below for the handles and numbers you’ll need to reach your Senators’ and/or Representative’s offices.

Members of Congress love to hear from constituents, especially with a well-deserved “thank you,” and there’s no easier or better way to keep them engaged and strong for LSTA and IAL. Please, check out our Champions chart and send your message of appreciation now. It’s strategic. It’s important. And it’s just plain good manners, to boot!

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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