Legislators received an informational packet which included our TASL School Libraries Infographic and the winning designs from our School Library Month bookmark contest.
Written by: Lindsey Anderson
In case you missed it, the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal eliminates library funding. Again. The House and Senate rejected these cuts in 2018 and funding was passed out of Committee. Congress is actively working on the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins October 1. Appropriations committees allocate funding across the 12 different subcommittees. Libraries fall under Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations. So, what can we do?
This is where you come in. This is where every email, letter, phone call, and meeting counts. Reach out to your Congressmen and Senators today and tell them how funding libraries specifically impacts you, their constituent. Show them the faces of those students and families whose lives are impacted by library services. Your voice and expertise is vital in making sure funding is appropriated for libraries. October will be here before we know it. Decisions are being made now, and your voice is needed now. Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
The NLLD Team from Tennessee. Front row (L-R) Lindsey Anderson (Woodland Middle School Librarian), Kathleen Tyree (Circulation Supervisor, Linebaugh Public Library), Vivian Wynn (State Coordinator for NLLD), Susan Earl (Director, John P. Holt Brentwood Library). Back Row (L-R): Chris Marszalek (Deputy Director, Memphis Public Libraries), Chuck Sherrill (State Librarian and Archivist, Tennessee State Library and Archives), Jerry Spurlin (Library Trustee), Jeffie Nicholson (Adult Services Manager, Williamson County Public Library and TLA President), Kent Oliver (Director, Nashville Public Library, Chair of ALA’s Committee on Legislation), Diane Johnson (Friends of the Library), Bill Beatty (Library Trustee), Janis Perry (Assistant Director, Hatchie River Regional Library) Photo credit: ALA
National Library Legislative Day was held on May 7, 8, in Washington D.C. Nearly 500 librarians, library directors, trustees, and supporters of libraries descended on Capitol Hill, charged with the same task- to ask Congress to fund libraries. Our three requests:
- To ask Congress to reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (S.2271) and to fund libraries with the $189.3 million needed for the Library Services Act (LSTA), which is the only federal program exclusively for libraries. This is bipartisan legislation to reauthorize IMLS, and it expands the previous reauthorization by allowing libraries to use grants to develop and implement disaster readiness plans, expanding eligibility for tribal libraries, and providing libraries with data-driven accountability tools.
- To ask for support of high capacity broadband for all libraries and to support legislation that bans blocking, throttling, degrading, paid prioritization of internet traffic and includes clear enforcement authority.
- To invite our Congressional leaders to our libraries to see their constituents taking advantage of all that libraries have to offer.
Infographic created by State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill on out funding IMLS specifically supports Tennessee public libraries.
How does this impact school school libraries?
Do your students use the Tennessee Electronic Library? TEL databases had over 14.4 million searches last year. It is the primary tool I use with students at my school for research. It stands to reason that a significant part of the volume of searches received by TEL is coming from students across Tennessee. TEL is funded jointly through IMLS and the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. If Congress does not reauthorize IMLS, thus cutting funding and therefore access to services like TEL, my library’s budget would be severely impacted, as I’d have to subscribe to the host of databases that TEL provides to us for free. How much room is in your budget for these databases?
Tennessee R.E.A.D.S., the Regional Ebook and Audiobook Download System had 3 million digital checkouts in 2017. I am continually referring my students to these digital resources at our local public library. My school uses these e-books to read virtually to students in 2 different school districts every week. Because I work in a middle school, I do not include K-2 level e-books in my budget, so having free access to the Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. resources, allows us free access to books that meet the elementary level reading needs of our virtual reading buddies.
How many of your students do not have a computer in their home, or they live in an area that lacks access to broadband? Do they use the local public library to use the computers to complete assignments? There were 7,343,595 uses of library computers or Wi-Fi in 2017 in public libraries. Access to technology and broadband levels the playing field and empowers those who cannot normally afford to have it in their homes. Our public libraries are there for our students after school and on weekends, providing access to computers and wi-fi so our students who do not have access in their homes can successfully complete their assignments.
If Congress does not adequately fund libraries, and reauthorize IMLS, this could have a devastating effect on the access our students have to not only information for assignments, but also to the resources and tools they have outside of their school libraries, which especially hurts our students who are already impacted the most by lack of digital access in their homes. When we partner with our public libraries and direct students to them to take advantage of the resources beyond our school libraries, we are equipping our students for a lifetime with the understanding that, no matter where they are in our country, they have free access to resources they need to get jobs, to further their education, and tools to help them succeed in our digital world. School librarians need to not only speak up for specific needs of our own libraries, but we also need to speak on behalf of our public libraries. Send your representative a copy of the infographic detailing how Tennessee public libraries benefit from IMLS.
TN Tuesday began with meeting Senator Alexander and Senator Corker and was followed by meetings with Tennessee representatives David Kustoff, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Scott DeJarlais, Phil Roe, John L. Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Jim Cooper, and Steve Cohen
How can you effectively engage your Congressional leaders?
If you are able to meet with your State Representative or Senator, or even with a member from their team, then great! If that’s not possible, send an email. Emails can be forwarded, unlike letters, and I learned that in some cases, letters are being scanned before they are sent to offices, so save yourself a stamp, and send an email. Follow them on social media. Comments on their posts can be influential in their decision making. Attend their town hall meetings and ask questions. Invite them to your libraries so they can see the impact of your services and resources in action.
Whatever you do, tell them your story. Tell them what is going on in your library, and how this impacts the lives of your students. Tell the story that needs to be told so that when they think about an issue, they see the face of the student you described.
Timing is crucial. If you follow ALA on social media, they will often prompt followers to reach out to Congressional leaders, therefore, when you see that call to action, contact your members of Congress right away.
Always follow-up. Send an email to thank them for a meeting. Thank any staffers who attended the meeting, too. Stay in contact and don’t take “yes” for an answer. Keep working to move them up the scale and getting them to do more.
Advocacy is year round. The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to advocacy. ALA has assembled a fantastic toolkit to help anyone get started with advocacy. As we approach the end of school year 2017-2018, remember that decisions that impact us in school year 2018-2019 are being made right now. Reach out to your elected officials and make your voice heard. As the old saying goes, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Tell Congress to #FundLibraries today.
Lindsey Anderson is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Middle School in Brentwood, TN. She is TASL’s Advocacy Chair and is Vice-President of the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival. She writes about library programming and lesson ideas on her blog, LibraryStile. Twitter: @LindsKAnderson.