Have you heard about it? Do you know what it means? Do you know what it could mean for libraries? How about your library? This library.
IMLS is the Institute for Museum and Library Services, it is about the only way the Federal Government funds public libraries. The total budget is 230 million, more than half of which is allocated to states based on their population, the rest is available through a grant process. WV receives 1.5 million dollars. Think about how quickly the Federal government can spend 1.5 million dollars and how much of it would impact your daily life? You have to combine the IMLS with the NEA and NEH (also eliminated in President Trump’s proposed budget) just to get to a half of a percent of the Federal budget. It’s not a huge pot of money but it has a major impact in every congressional district in the country.
The West Virginia Library Commission uses those funds to support public libraries across the state by providing and maintaining a broadband network. A network that more than a million people (1,029,377) used last year to access the internet so they could apply for jobs, take college classes, get health insurance, buy a house, start a business, connect with loved ones, and so much more. Contracting for high speed internet to allow up to 25 users at a time would cost hundreds of dollars a month to our library. To transfer this cost to individual libraries would be crippling. Most libraries in the state, including ours have already faced big cuts over the past few years. The IMLS grants also support our circulation system. Without this funding we, and many other libraries in the state, would not be able to support this service. There would be no online catalog to search, let alone searching neighboring library’s catalogs to see what is available. Having the ability to catalog books and materials, and track them as they are checked out aids us in being good stewards of tax dollars.
The takeaway? Eliminating the IMLS from the federal budget will directly affect the level of service you will receive at this library. Maybe you don’t need public internet, but more than 16,000 people walked through our doors last year to use it. We can’t just ignore that need, it will have to be balanced with book purchases, e-book services, children’s programs, staff and operating hours.
We need library advocates (that’s you) to act. Everylibrary has put together an action plan on their website. They make it easy to sign a petition or contact your representatives. Tell your representatives what the library means to you, how you value it and together we can #saveIMLS.