April 19, 2018

ALA: Fighting for Funding | Federal Advocacy

On July 13, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies voted to recommend level funding in FY18 for IMLS, likely including $183 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program. The full Appropriations Committee markup and vote took place on July 19; the budget passed 28–22. While the vote was an important step toward securing federal library funding going forward, the fight is not over, says ALA president Jim Neal.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill in September, after the congressional recess in August. Library advocates need to reach out to committee members in the period leading up to the vote, says Neal—and continue those efforts afterward.

“We need to keep ourselves out in front of our elected leaders not only in this budget process but year-round,” Neal advises. Library advocates should continue to cultivate relationships with elected officials, and the August recess is an opportune time to make calls, schedule a meeting with a member of Congress or a staffer, or invite them to the library to see those budget dollars in action. Individuals can stay informed by signing up for District Dispatch, ALA’s Washington Office blog, and use ALA’s Legislative Action Center to get moving.

Local voices are key, Neal explains, and constituent voices matter. “We need to show…the decision-makers what is going on. Sometimes local impact and influence is so much more powerful than what lobbyists can tell them in Washington.”

“Collective, sustained effort is clearly a fundamental part of our work going forward,” adds Neal. This is important not only for federal programs and funding but also on a variety of policy issues that ALA will be supporting. “We have issues around federal programs like E-rate and ESSA [the Every Student Succeeds Act], telecom, privacy, copyright—these are all going to be sustained challenges over the next several years. So this effectiveness that we’ve pulled together around the FY18 appropriations process should carry into future budgeting efforts and other policy advocacy work.”

While recent victories don’t mean advocates can rest on their laurels, some celebration is both well earned and good for the cause, and elected officials need to hear it. “We need to reach out and say, ‘We matter. We’re having influence. Our advocating is making a difference. Our elected leaders are listening,’ ” says Neal. “We should take some motivation from that.”

Then, put that motivation to work in the marathon advocacy effort ahead.—Lisa Peet


This article was published in Library Journal's August 1, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.



  1. ICYMI: Another way our field is fighting for funding is via this group:

    The idea behind Library Endowment:
    “In a nutshell, the endowment will be a Friend of the Library-style organization for the entire United States. It won’t compete with local groups. Rather, it will focus on donations from the super rich.”

    If you want to help lobby the rich to make some major contributions to libraries, check the website for info. Small, local donations are wonderful, but we can’t always rely on them for the major funds that libraries need to keep up with building and tech needs.

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