By Lin Oliver
SCBWI Executive Director
When the new organization, The Corporate Committee for Library Investment (CCLI), was launched on May 17, SCBWI was among the first to sign on. CCLI is comprised of business and trade organizations who have united specifically to support federal library funding, which is in grave danger of being eliminated in the proposed federal budget for FY 2018. Specifically, the new budget seeks to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and along with it, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.
The goal of CCLI is to support Congressional appropriations for programs that fall under both the Library Services and Technology Act ($186.6 million) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program ($27 million). The LSTA funding goes primarily to support matching grant programs that allow states to be in charge of how federal library funds are spent. The IAL funds allow school librarians and non-profit groups to buy books and educational materials for the country’s neediest children.
What I would like to say to all of our beloved SCBWI members is this: We cannot afford to put these programs in jeopardy, either as an industry or as citizens of a democracy that depends upon a literate and educated populace. Libraries and librarians are at the heart of the children’s book world. Each year, America’s 120,000 libraries are visited 1.4 billion times, averaging 4 million visits per day or 2,663 visits per minute. Many of these visitors are children and young people, who come to seek out OUR books, often purchased with the help of federal funds.
You might be wondering why SCBWI is taking this stand in such a forthright manner, and why you should support it. We are, after all, an organization of independent thinkers, who represent all parts of the political spectrum. Libraries, though, are not on the political spectrum. The proposed cuts to our libraries would have a profound effect on our industry, on SBCWI’s mission to put good books in the hands of today’s young people, and on our members’ opportunity to succeed in our vital and creative work. Clearly, the children’s book community unanimously agrees with this position. Witness that the founding members of CCLI include such key members of the children’s book field as the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, Baker & Taylor, Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Publisher’s Weekly and many more.
CCLI’s first step was to support Congressional appropriations for libraries by delivering an electronic letter to every member of Congress and other federal policy makers, stressing the irreplaceable value of libraries, not only as vital educational institutions but as workforce creating engines, as centers of lifelong learning, and as beacons of cultural and civic engagement. The ongoing work of CCLI will be to try to secure robust funding that will keep our library system alive and yes, flourishing.
In a recent conversation with Beth Yoke, Executive Director of the ALA Young Adult Library Services Association, I was moved by her plea for libraries. She said, “The elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and with it federal funds for libraries, will not just have a financial toll on libraries and the communities they serve. It is also a blow to democracy because libraries promote life-long learning and provide unfettered access to information of all kinds and from all viewpoints. Without funds for libraries to purchase books and other materials, we may lose access to the many voices and viewpoints of authors—especially those from traditionally under-represented groups.” I agree. And I hope you do too, regardless of your politics. Surely, we can all come together to make certain that libraries remain relevant and vital. Remember, if SCBWI is a tribe, libraries are the sacred place that house our tribal artifacts.
What can you do? If you are moved by this article, let your social media contacts know about the financial threat to libraries. (fundlibraries.com or use the hashtag #SaveIMLS). Grass roots opinions matter. Pass the word about joining CCLI to any businesses you know or work with. It’s a solid organization. And of course, let your representatives know that you support funding for libraries. (bit.ly/fight-for-libararies, #SaveIMLS).
And now, I’m off to take my granddaughter to her favorite place. You guessed it. The library.