Libraries have always been cornerstones of their communities, and during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve transformed their services to connect people with the resources they need while maintaining social distancing.
But while libraries are among our nation’s important institutions, many are woefully underfunded. New federal legislation would help fix that, providing much-needed upgrades to library infrastructure, especially in the country’s most underserved communities.
Sponsored by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Build America’s Libraries Act would provide $5 billion in funding to repair, modernize, and construct library facilities in the communities that need it most.
Libraries could use the funding for critical projects like upgrading outdated internet services, expanding accessibility for people with disabilities, updating their facilities to be more environmentally sustainable, and improving their protection against hazards like lead, mold, and COVID-19.
Nationally, public libraries have billions of dollars in assessed facilities needs, including more than $1.5 billion of facilities needs in New York, more than $500 million of needs in Illinois, and more than $250 million of needs for libraries in Washington’s rural distressed counties. Congress hasn’t dedicated federal funding for library facilities in more than 20 years. The Build America’s Libraries Act is an opportunity to provide long overdue support to libraries and the communities they serve.
If the act passes, Institute of Museum and Library Services will distribute funding through state library agencies, which will prioritize assistance to libraries serving marginalized communities. Public libraries, tribal libraries, and state libraries serving the general public would all be eligible for funding support.
It only takes a few moments to contact your representative and senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Build America’s Libraries Act. Just enter your name and information in ALA’s action center, modify the template message if you’d like, and hit send. Your support could help make an impact for America’s libraries and the communities they serve for generations to come.