Washington Hotline

Shawnda Hines is assistant director of communications, Public Policy and Advocacy, at ALA’s Washington Office, email: shines@alawash.org

The month of May was a busy one for ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office, both in terms of the congressional decision-making and the release of new policy resources.

Appropriations update

By the first week of May, the House Appropriations Subcommittee (Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies) that oversees funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) proposed a $25 million increase in funding for IMLS, $17 million of which would go to libraries. Especially during a budget cycle when many programs face cuts, this is good news for libraries and a testimony to ALA’s advocacy. With the Senate Appropriations Committee being a tougher sell, ALA advocates in states represented by members of the Committee are getting out the word that libraries are worth the investment. The Senate appropriations schedule was not set at the time of writing but could happen by the end of May.

Policy resources

ALA released a new white paper in the ALA Policy Perspectives series, “Healthier Communities: Libraries improve health literacy, access.” Citing the shifting health landscape and the role that libraries play in access to health information, the 18-page brief argues that it is a joint responsibility of decision makers and librarians to leverage libraries in addressing new opportunities and challenges on the horizon. With more than 120,000 locations across the nation, including within health and research settings, libraries are well-positioned to improve access to credible information, provide expert assistance in navigating health resources and regulations, and work with partners to develop and deliver relevant programs and services that bolster health and wellness.

The paper notes ways that school and college and research libraries provide access to, and even supplement, health and wellness-related curricula with books and subscription databases relevant to both their studies and personal health needs. One example is the Texas Woman’s University’s “Consumer Health LibGuide,” which provides resources that are authoritative, current, and allow community members to perform health-related research at differentiated reading and knowledge levels.

The paper concludes that library leaders will need to take the initiative and make the case to decision makers—speaking in their language to explain how libraries represent cost-effective means for addressing the community’s critical health care challenges.

On May 16, 2019, ALA released the Libraries’ Guide to the 2020 Census, a resource for library practitioners to prepare for the 2020 Census—the first census to offer an online response option. Next year, when people receive materials asking them to complete the census, many will have questions, and they will turn to libraries as one of their most trusted sources of information for answers. ALA designed the new guide to equip libraries with answers and provide practical information, including FAQs, to help them plan for the census. An estimated $9 trillion in federal funding will be allocated to states over the next decade based on the 2020 Census results. As the Census Bureau designates “mobile millennials”—especially students living off campus—as a “hard-to-count” population, college and research libraries will be needed to help communities achieve a fair, accurate, and inclusive count. To download the guide, visit ala.org/census.

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