February 18, 2018

ALA Seeks $100 Million in Stimulus Funding for Public Libraries

  • Library use rises, but budgets decline
  • ALA points to increased hours, help with job search, financial literacy
  • Funds would be distributed according to LSTA formula

The American Library Association (ALA) is asking Congress for a one-time infusion of $100 million in stimulus funding to help libraries aid Americans as they deal with the nation’s current fiscal crisis. At a time when Congress is considering another economic stimulus package, ALA points out that public library usage has risen during this tough economic time while their budgets face severe budget cutbacks. While public libraries depend heavily on local property taxes to maintain operations, increased foreclosure rates, lower home values, and fewer sales have sharply reduced available funds, forcing libraries to cut services and hours.

Melanie Anderson, Associate Director of the Office of Government Relations in ALA’s Washington Office, explained, “The Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services would be directed to distribute funds to each State library administrative agency to expand evening and weekend hours of operation at public libraries; expand critical employment activities and services such as résumé development; job bank web searches; and workshops on career information at public libraries; promote financial literacy, housing counseling, and small business development activities at public libraries; and acquire additional resources and materials to help keep up with increased demand for services at public libraries. The funds would be distributed according to the existing LSTA [Library Services and Technology Act] formula.”

Crucial services

A recent ALA study shows that 73 percent of all libraries nationwide provide the only free Internet access in their communities. In rural areas the rate rises to 83 percent. Many libraries have reported double-digit growth in computer use this year.

“America’s free public libraries provide a lifeline for citizens in need across the country,” said ALA president Jim Rettig. “Ensuring Internet access, career workshops, business seminars, and other economic support services are vital links in the nation’s financial recovery. This is no time to cut much-needed support, reduce hours or close library doors.”