In a major legislative victory for America’s libraries, the House of Representatives on December 19 passed the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) by a 331-28 margin. The bill reauthorizes the MLSA through 2025, paving the way for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to continue distributing federal funding to library programs through grants to states. The bill now heads to the president’s desk.
In a statement, ALA president Loida Garcia Febo said librarians were “thrilled” that Congress had passed the bill. “By reauthorizing IMLS through 2025, Congress has reaffirmed the essential role of the federal government in partnering with the nation's 120,000 libraries to serve our communities,” Garcia-Febo noted.
Introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the MLSA passed the Senate on December 4. But late last week, ALA officials warned that the House leadership was refusing to advance the bill in the last days of the 115th Congress, and urged library supporters to contact their local representatives. The effort paid off. In a message to membership last evening, ALA officials praised the library community’s “steadfast work to move MLSA forward and to send a strong message to Congress that libraries and the vital services they provide have longstanding value in every community across the country.”
Despite his proposals to eliminate the IMLS and all federal library funding, President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
Though passage of the MLSA doesn’t ensure that Congress will actually fund federal library programs (nor was reauthorization necessary for IMLS to receive funding) the move represents an important commitment. “An agency with current authorization stands a much better chance of receiving funding than one that does not,” explained Kathi Kromer, executive director of the ALA’s Washington Office.
The MLSA was last authorized by President Obama in 2010.