Publishers may occasionally disagree with librarians on some issues, but in a letter to United States Senators this week a number of major companies highlighted a topic of strong agreement: libraries are essential to the book business—and to the nation. In the letter, dated May 10, executives from eight leading companies urged Senators to sign the American Library Association’s “Dear Appropriator” letter in support of federal library funding.
The letter was signed by executives from Baker & Taylor; Follett; Gale/Cengage; OverDrive; Peachtree Publishers; Penguin Random House; ProQuest; and Rosen Publishing.
“The bottom line, literally and figuratively," the letter reads, "is that the health of our businesses, our workers and all of our communities is inextricably linked to the health of libraries and their continued federal funding.”
The letter asserts that library funding “may be among the very best yielding” investment Congress can make, and that “libraries are very much critical national infrastructure: ubiquitous, indispensable and economically essential.”
Specifically, the letter requests that Senators sign the ALA Dear Appropriator letter, or signal their intention to fully fund the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) at $186.6 million, and "the tiny but vital" Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program at $27 million in FY 2018 budget, and to “ensure sufficient funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).”
The push comes as lawmakers earlier this month added $1 million to the IMLS’ FY2017 budget, signed last week. However, federal library funding remains under serious threat, as President Donald Trump’s so-called “skinny budget,” released in mid-March, proposed eliminating the (IMLS), which administers most federal library funding, and “zeroed out” virtually all library funding, including programs authorized by the LSTA and the IAL.
Already, over a third of House members have signed a version of the ALA's Dear Appropriator letter, and the goal is to get more than 51 Senators on board by May 19.
Appropriator letters are an important tool, ALA officials explain, as they let legislators know which issues have strong support among their peers—and therefore what programs must be funded when budget negotiations heat up.
In a statement, ALA president Julie Todaro welcomed the support of the publishers and vendors.
“The eight leading companies that have urged all Senators to support critical federal library programs are spotlighting an often overlooked and critical aspect of libraries’ service to the public and the nation: libraries mean business,” she said. “In addition to loaning print and electronic materials, modern libraries are job training, job search, workforce-building, entrepreneur-training, veteran-helping and business building centers at the core of almost every community in America.”
ALA is urging more publishers and library vendors to sign on, here. And more importantly, ALA is asking librarians and library supporters from all over the country to call their Senators and urge them to sign the Dear Appropriator letters before next Friday.