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Senators introduce bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act of 2017

Acknowledging the critical role of libraries as anchor institutions in communities across the nation, a group of senators under the leadership of Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (S. 2271). IMLS logo

The 2017 MLSA reauthorizes the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), showing congressional support for the federal agency. IMLS administers funding through the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA), the only federal program that exclusively covers services and funding for libraries. The LSTA provides more than $183 million for libraries through the Grants to States program, the National Leadership Grants for Libraries, the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, and Native American Library Services.

To be clear, S. 2271 would not ensure full funding* for the programs libraries depend on. Reauthorization of the MLSA is not necessary for IMLS to receive funding: the last MLSA expired in 2016. Rather, S. 2271 would authorize IMLS to continue to exist and give direction about how the agency should operate. Passage of this reauthorization bill would signal that Congress values libraries and supports the mission of IMLS. As ALA President Jim Neal expressed it,

“Today’s introduction of the bipartisan MLSA reauthorization is the first critical step toward ensuring federal support for our nation’s nearly 120,000 libraries. LSTA grants enable libraries in every state to innovate and meet the growing demand for services that meet the needs of our communities.”

The 2017 MLSA continues to support the stated mission of IMLS to inspire libraries to “advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.” It largely mirrors the previous authorization, with some improvements. After considerable input from library professionals across the country, ALA’s Washington Office worked closely with the bill’s lead cosponsors to include numerous recommendations in the legislation such as:

  • explicit allowance for grant funds to be used to help libraries prepare for and provide services after a disaster or emergency;
  • greater use of data-driven tools to measure the impact and maximize the effectiveness of library services; and
  • additional provisions to enable more Native American tribes to participate in IMLS grant programs.

Today’s introduction of the MLSA gives a clear and timely opportunity for each one of our elected federal leaders to show unequivocally their support for libraries.

ALA’s Washington Office encourages you to use the action center to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 2271. In your emails and calls to senators, tell them how LSTA funds enable your library to offer valuable services to your community. Invite them to visit your library to see for themselves the difference you are making in people’s lives. Ultimately, it is your story and your voice that will persuade your elected leaders to show their support for libraries and cosponsor the MLSA of 2017.

* ALA members have defended funding for IMLS at every turn throughout the appropriations process in 2017, beginning with the administration’s March budget recommendation to effectively eliminate IMLS. That proposal was rejected by House and Senate Appropriators, with both chambers recommending robust funding for IMLS (although final funding bills have not passed Congress). We will aggressively continue our advocacy to fund libraries in the new year. In the meantime, our strategy is to gain cosponsors for MLSA in the Senate and work with representatives to introduce companion legislation in the House.

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Kathi Kromer

Kathi Kromer is the Associate Executive Director of the American Library Association's Washington Office.

4 Comments

  1. Senators we urge you to show support for libraries by becoming a cosponsor of S. 2271. The Eagle Pass Public Library supports the constituents of Eagle Pass, Texas and Maverick County, through LSTA funds the library will be enabled to offer valuable services to our community

  2. […] Washington Office continues to advocate for support for IMLS, and in the meantime hopes to help bring in additional cosponsors in the Senate for MLSA to show support for the bill. (Reed’s office also wants to work with representatives to introduce […]

  3. Senators we urge you to support libraries by becoming a cosponsor of S.2271. The Lawrence Public Library District supports/ serves all of Lawrence County, Illinois. We provide much needed services to all members of the Lawrence County community that cannot be accessed anywhere else in the county. We are able to provide a wide range of these services due to LSTA funds. Please cosponsor S. 2271 – so these needed services can continue to be available to improve and better the lives of the Lawrence County community.

  4. Honorable Senators I pray you cosponsor S.2271 because libraries are the main veins to a society protected by the bone, which are representatives. With the advancing age of technology it’s imperative to have libraries continue to provide a neutral area for learning for all Americans.

    Thank you,
    Jeanne M. Wolfe – Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

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