Library services deserve national support

By Jessica Bowman

Reader Contributor

With the recent political climate, there has been much talk on budget cuts to certain areas covered by federal resources. I am here today to advocate for one program on the chopping block.

This is a program that many of you love and use on a regular basis, possibly without even knowing it. Nestled within the plethora of acronyms set to be cut, the IMLS might not sound important. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t even sound familiar. But it is extremely important. IMLS stands for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Basically, it’s the federal funding granted to libraries across the nation. The IMLS proposed budget for this upcoming fiscal year is $186.6 million.

That sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn’t. That money is disbursed to libraries across the nation to fund federal programs. Without this money, Idaho’s libraries will no longer be funded for Summer Reading programs, Make It programs, Talking Books Services or Read to Me, among several others. These are services used in our communities, by our friends and family members.

Last year, nearly 400 kids in Sandpoint participated in the Summer Reading program. Read to Me allows thousands of low-income children to take home books of their very own. For some children, it’s the first book they’ve had that is theirs.

The Make It program is relatively new. It gives communities access to STEAM technology: 3D printers, arduinos, robots, coloring programs and pays for librarians to be trained to teach their patrons about exciting new technology.

If I so far have not sold you on the importance of federal funding for libraries and their important role in educating and exciting children and young adults in reading and learning, let me tell you about Talking Books.

Talking Books is a service provided through IMLS funds. It delivers recorded books, and a special player, right into the hands of people who either can’t read traditional books because of their vision or because they are unable to hold a physical book.

Libraries provide these services for their communities because we genuinely enjoy helping people. We want your children to have books and to enjoy reading. We want you to be able to design something on CAD software and then print out a prototype. We want your grandma to be able to listen to books.

In 2015 the Idaho Rural Partnership (IRP) conducted a meta-analysis of 26 community reviews. Out of 67 community values across all of the reviews, fire protection ranked as most valued, with an average score of 4.01. Second in importance, right behind fire protection with an average score of 3.99, was the quality of the public library.

This budget cut will have very real consequences in our communities. Libraries are here to serve you but now we need your help. Defunding libraries will have very real, long term consequences in our town, not in some far away place.

You can help by contacting your representative. House representatives need to hear from their constituents by April 3 that libraries and IMLS funding are important. Tell your representative why libraries are important to you.

Get on social media and share this information. Tell your friends, your family, a stranger or two, about why you think libraries are important.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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