Washington state’s chief librarian is headed to the nation’s Capitol next week in an effort to protect a major source of funding for libraries throughout the state.
Cindy Aden says those funds are in danger of vanishing under the president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, which would eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the United States.
“This is a crucial issue for Washington’s libraries,” said Aden. “Losing this federal funding would significantly impact library services throughout our state. It would hurt not only the State Library but threaten the very existence of libraries in many small, rural communities.”
Many of the Washington State Library’s programs and staff positions are made possible through federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding provided by IMLS. Each year, the State Library receives an average of $3.2 million in LSTA money, which provides a variety of services to Washington libraries, their staff and residents statewide, Aden explained. LSTA fully or partially funds the Ask-WA 24/7 reference service and the software used to provide the Ask a Librarian service, statewide databases, two e-book and audiobook consortiums, and staff training and development.
The LSTA funding also provides grants, resources and services provided to local community libraries, such as summer reading programs, nonfiction books for school libraries, training for teacher-librarians, library trustee training, STEM training kits for local libraries to borrow and other services and support for libraries.
Additionally, the funding supports Washington’s prison libraries, a successful program operated by the State Library.
“Washington is the only state whose State Library provides in-prison libraries and staff,” Aden said. “Having libraries in our corrections centers has a huge impact on inmates and their preparation for life beyond prison. Those libraries keep inmates productively occupied, enhance inmate literacy, and prepare inmates with skills and information they will need when they are released and re-enter society. The Department of Corrections tells us that 80 percent of inmates will be released, so we need to be sure inmates are supported and educated for success.”
During a visit to Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Secretary of State Kim Wyman reached out to members of the state’s congressional delegation and asked them to support keeping LSTA funding in the federal budget.