On the same day that the American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, and other notable book awards, the White House announced its budget, which cut all federal funding for America’s library services, also known as Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
This happened in 2017 as well, and libraries fought back, gathering bi-partisan support in Congress to continue library funding. IMLS provides all sorts of library services, but in my opinion it is most valuable in supporting more equal access to rural areas around the country. If you live in an area where no internet access is provided (my library serves a neighboring county where this is the case) then you are most likely to get your tax forms, apply for jobs, and do your homework in a library. Certain IMLS funds go directly to ensure that libraries in these areas can support these services, especially since they are less likely to receive the same kind of local support/funding that those of us in well-populated areas benefit from. Cutting IMLS from the budget is going to directly impact the people in these areas, they may well be those that need it the most.
If you are interested in showing your support for IMLS please contact your Congress-person and Senators. ALA has created this contact form which is quick and easy to use. Please also use the hashtag #FundLibraries in your social media posts.
All the time I have conversations with friends where I mention something about work and they go “Wow. I didn’t know libraries did that.” While it’s very easy to respond when people ask me what I do, it seems that most people have no idea what actually goes on inside a library, or what librarians actually do (hint: we don’t read books all day).
Several times a year an article comes out with a title something along the lines of “Why do we need libraries anymore?”, causing librarians around the country to lose their minds with worry and exasperation. We know what we do, we know who we help, but it’s an unseen help, people expect us just to be there like the post office or the power at their home. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
In my relatively short career I have helped people work on documents to secure citizenship, find jobs, helped someone with no computer skills purchase plane tickets to visit her daughter, shown people how to use their eReaders and devices, helped people register to vote, worked extra hours to assist after a hurricane, helped someone write a book, helped people research their resent diagnosis, developed programs, found books for reluctant readers and the list goes on and on. These are not small things, these are things that keep the world turning that people would miss if they were taken away because “everything is on the internet now”. It’s not, and as it turns out a lot of things on the internet are complete and total garbage. What I do everyday keeps the world turning and offers a harbor of trust for the people who need it most. Yes, books are our signature product, but it’s not in the least the only product or service that we offer. As the director of my library often says, if we were just a place for books we would’ve been closed a long time ago.
Neil Gaiman once said “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” In the age where anyone can put out information as fact for the whole world to read, it’s more important than ever that libraries continue to offer help, information, and advice to those who need it most.