Libraries should not be politicized for any reason. It should be one of the rare instances where the topic is truly bi-partisan. Republicans and Democrats alike should agree that a nation that is educated, able to freely obtain information and be independent should have libraries open to the public. It is the hallmark of a democratic society. Keeping this in mind, it should seem ironic that the very institution that promotes self-improvement, self-education and access to information is routinely targeted for budget cuts. If every politician believed in freedom of speech, they would not allow libraries to be the fall guy for the rest of government agencies. In fact they should be fighting tooth and nail to keep the library doors open.
An amendment to S. 493, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Reauthorization Act of 2011 was submitted by Senator Jim DeMint. This amendment would rescind all funds that are not obligated from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and send them back to the U.S Treasury. This would include funds to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The slash in federal funds that libraries would face is $100 million for FY2011. That's a lot of money that would leave libraries across the U.S. to either cut programs like Summer Reading Club, database subscription, and other resources which help people find jobs. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Getting the attention of law makers does not necessarily mean a trip to D.C. (However, when given the opportunity, one should go to the nation's capital at least once. It is a worthwhile trip.)
The recession has hit many communities hard and libraries continue to be the anchor in the community with programs that help people to improve their lives and find government resources to help them in their time of need. Legislators who turn to the library as the first place to make cuts in the budgets are not getting the message that libraries bring stability to the community. This can not continue. Legislators of all political background should be educated in the important role libraries play in communities across the country. How can this be done if a trip to D.C. this week is out of the question? Using a cell phone or computer library advocates across the United States can participate in Virtual Library Legislative Day by contacting their representatives and Senator DeMint on May 10th or anytime during the week of May 9-13. At www.ala.org, a quick link to contacting Washington's lawmakers is available for anyone to use. If you have five minutes, that is enough time to get the message out. It's that simple.
The challenge is for every person who loves libraries to get involved in supporting libraries. After making the call or sending the email to your representative, invite family and friends to do the same. That extra call, or email might be the tipping point for Washington to wake up and respond positively to protecting library funding. A library is a terrible institution to lose. Don't let Congress take away funds that would help your library continue to thrive and help your community.