Thanks to the efforts of ALA advocates across the country, this year’s Dear Appropriator Campaign proved a success in the Senate with an increased number of signatures on the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) letter and sustained support for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) letter.
The bipartisan LSTA letter was led by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and called for at least $189 million funding for LSTA. Forty-six Senators signed the letter this year, one more than last year and the highest number of signatures ever generated for LSTA in the Senate! Every Senator who signed last year returned to the sign again and newly sworn-in Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) signed for the first time. The IAL letter was led by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and called for level funding for IAL at $27 million. This year, 35 Senators lent their support, one short of last year’s high-water mark as Republicans steered clear of funding letters this year.
This follows the successful House campaign, which saw a near-record number of Representatives signing the LSTA letter and a strong showing on the IAL letter. The House LSTA letter was signed by 136 representatives (the second most ever), a solid result for only 10 days of campaigning; normally, there is a three- to four-week window to gather signatures. Four members submitted their own individual LSTA letter: Bustos (D-IL-17), Cardenas (D-CA-29), Lance (R-NJ-7) and Jenkins (R-KS-2). Several new members added signatures to the LSTA letter, and the number of Republicans on the letter rose from three to four. Taking into account two resignations, one death and committee shifts in the House, the number of LSTA signatories is the same as last year.
The FY 2019 IAL Dear Appropriator Letter was again led by four representatives: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). The final count for the IAL letter was lower than last year, with 98 signatures compared to 146. ALA advocated for IAL alongside a large coalition of education partners, so the drop is not due to inactivity on the part of ALA advocates or allies. There is some sense that the focus of school programs and school libraries has shifted to the Title IV program, authorized under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act. The $700 million increase in Title IV funding in FY 2018 may be evidence of this shift. WO staff, alongside colleagues at AASL, will continue to monitor the program and investigate potential changes in our policy advocacy.
Finally, we are very proud to report that Washington Office staff worked closely with state chapters and associations this year, generating over 75 letters to Members of Congress from 20 state chapters, including Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. We also generated letters from COSLA, AILA and ATALM and worked with United as well.
While the letter campaigns are behind us, we must continue to stay engaged. To maintain our momentum, we will be encouraging ALA advocates to call and thank the Senators and Representatives who signed these letters. In D.C., we are also gearing up for the 475 library workers and advocates who are flying in for National Library Legislative Day on May 7 and 8.
As the budget process progresses, we will keep you all apprised. We expect to have future actions soon. Once again, thank you all for your continued support and advocacy!