2017 has taken a very strange turn for libraries with the release of President Trump’s FY 2018 budget framework and his call to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It shouldn’t be unexpected though. Speaker Ryan has previously proposed to zero-fund IMLS in two of his prior-year draft budgets as well. As the only federal program for libraries, there would be significant problems felt in every state if IMLS is cut. In some states, programs like library services to the blind and visually impaired would be cut. In others, basic programs like interlibrary loan, which provides access to books and other items to everyone regardless of how well off their community is, would be impacted. We will have less effective literacy programs and fewer successful businesses in our towns if this proposed cut happens.
Fighting for IMLS – and for the NEA and NEH as a matrix of support for libraries and museums – is a fight for an idea about America. Do we want to live in a place that is more interesting, more vibrant, and more successful because we all pay a little bit in taxes? Or do we want to wall ourselves off and limit access to opportunity because of an ideology that says ‘any tax is a bad tax’? We have a Congress that did not filibuster cabinet secretaries who were nominated to run departments they despise. I cannot see this Congress – in the absence of sustained and broad-based public pressure – mounting a filibuster to save IMLS. So, we have to reach them and bring out a bunch of our fellow Americas to tell them what we want.
But there is also an existential threat to libraries – and the future of the whole ‘American experiment’ in free public library services – if IMLS is cut. As the only federal program for libraries, IMLS is a bellwether for the health and vitality of institutions that are in every town, city, and county across our country. I believe that IMLS is an expression of the commitment we have in America that education should be available to all, that access to public resources should be equal, and that individuals are members of a compassionate society. I fear that ending the IMLS would also be a “leading national indicator” for the future of library funding in small towns and big cities around the country.
At EveryLibrary, we are dedicating a lot of resources to reach millions of Americans with a message about IMLS and libraries in America today. Since last Thursday when the president’s 2018 budget hit, we have spent significant resources to reach nearly 1.5 million Americans with a message about IMLS. Over 11,000 people responded right away and emailed their members of Congress. But this isn’t a one-week effort. To break through the noise and reach people who care – people like you – is going to take a sustained and smart campaign. We know from our data that for every $10,000 we can spend on social media advertising about IMLS, we can reach another 5 million people with a call-to-action about the future of libraries. Can you help us raise that next $10,000 to help save IMLS?
A donation of $25-50 helps us reach thousands of Americans to support Libraries
There are a lot of Americans who’d care about IMLS and the future of libraries if they knew what was happening. There is shock and dismay that the President and the Speaker have both proposed cutting IMLS funding to libraries. There are a lot of Americans who would stand up and say No – if they knew it was happening. Can you help us reach them and activate them on Twitter and Facebook? Now is the time. If you can make a one-time donation to support libraries today we’ll put it to work filling-in this map of Americans who care about libraries. If you can help fuel our work with a $10 or $25 a month donation, you will help us over the long haul. It’s a fight about ideals.