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Help! Millions in FY2017 library funding in Congress’ crosshairs

Less than one year ago, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee suggested completely eliminating IMLS and, with it, nearly $200 million in federal support for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). He’s no longer the chairman … since becoming Speaker of the House! Sorry to say, Paul Ryan’s not the only one, however, who thinks library funding cuts are a good idea. Released just weeks ago, President Obama’s budget proposed to trim almost $1 million from LSTA’s Grants to States program.

Gold dollar symbols falling through an hourglass 3d Rendering
Photo credit: Bill Brooks

That means that ALA now needs your help to give library champions in Congress all the support we can in their fight to keep both LSTA and other key library programs, like Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL), alive and well. Every year around this time, our champions draft letters to the Members of the powerful Appropriations Committees in both chambers of Congress asking them to support maximum library funding. They then attempt to get as many of their Congressional colleagues to sign these influential “Dear Appropriator” letters as possible before submitting them to the Committees ahead of a strict deadline that’s rapidly approaching. When dozens of Members of Congress sign these letters it’s a powerful statement to the Appropriators that they should look for other programs to cut.

But here’s the crucial thing; many Members will only sign these letters if they or their staff receive many requests from their own constituents.

That’s where you come in. Take just a few minutes now to contact the offices of your Representative in Congress and both of your U.S. Senators and ask them to sign both the LSTA and IAL Dear Appropriator letters now circulating in their chamber (details just below). Your help, and these funds, make a huge difference in what libraries and librarians can do for their patrons in every corner of the country and, with the deadline fast approaching to get the letters to the Appropriations Committees, there’s no time to lose.

The message for your individual Members of Congress is simple and clear. While adding your personal anecdotes about what LSTA and IAL make possible in your communities and schools would be great, the key thing their offices need to hear about each of the “Dear Appropriator” letters is just this simple:

  1. LSTA Senate Letter: “Please ask the Senator to sign the ‘LSTA Dear Appropriator’ letter now by contacting Elyse Wasch in Senator Jack Reed’s office, or Katie Brown in Senator Susan Collins’ office.”
  2. IAL Senate Letter: “Please ask the Senator to sign the ‘IAL Dear Appropriator’ letter now by contacting Moira Lenehan-Razzuri in Senator Jack Reed’s office, or James Rice in Senator Grassley’s office.”
  3. LSTA House Letter: “Please ask the Congressman/woman to sign the ‘LSTA Dear Appropriator’ letter now by contacting David Gellman in Rep. Raul Grijalva’s office.”
  4. IAL House Letter: “Please ask the Congressman/woman to sign the ‘IAL Dear Appropriator’ letter now by contacting Carrie Swope in Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office, or Alex Ortiz in Rep. Don Young’s office.”

Now is the time to contact your Members of Congress’ offices. Senate letters must be completed by March 14, while House letters must be completed by March 18. With only a few days to collect signatures, there’s no time to delay in making this critical request.

Additional Background:

  • Every state receives LSTA funds. With them, libraries and librarians everywhere can do things like help: a library to replace part of its collection lost to flooding; local businesses to develop 21st century commerce tools; kids to avoid the “summer slide” with special reading programs; or to deploy resources for families with differently-abled children.
  • IAL funding changes lives too, allowing many schools to: distribute books to children who have none at home; teach families how to read together; and offer programs to build English language proficiency.

Visit the ALA Action Center to support FY 2017 LSTA and IAL funding!

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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.


  1. […] By the end of the morning, attendees had written and mailed 40 letters to Congress, asking their Senators and Representatives to sign onto the LSTA and IAL “Dear Appropriator” letters (and spawning the hashtag #OwlsToWashington in the process). Press releases and videos were […]

  2. […] Earlier this week, we asked for your help in defending the more than $200 million in LSTA and other federal library funding from Congressional and Administration cost-cutters.  Time was short then and it’s even shorter now.  Your help is needed to get your Representative and both US Senators to sign “Dear Appropriator” letters supporting LSTA and Innovative Approaches to Literacy grants, among others.  With just a few days left to get as many members of Congress behind those programs as humanly possible, now is the time for you to go to ALA’s Legislative Action Center and help save more than $200 million for communities across the country . . . very likely including yours! […]

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