Good News from Washington, D.C.

Photo of Susan HildrethBy Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

The past two weeks have been busy ones for IMLS. We have been following three new developments in Washington, D.C. that will impact the work of U.S. libraries and museums for months and years to come.

On December 10, President Obama convened educators, advocates, policymakers, corporate supporters, and prominent early education leaders for the White House Summit on Early Education. Not only did the event elevate this issue to the highest level in Washington, it made a call for all sectors—government at all levels, private organizations, and philanthropies—to work together to improve the quality of early education for America’s youngest learners. At the summit, commitments of more than $220 million in new actions from private organizations and philanthropies were made. Together with federal awards from the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, this collective investment tops $1 billion. At the event, the President announced the launch of Invest in US, an effort by the nonprofit First Five Years Fund to connect communities and states that want to expand their early learning programs to 10 leading partners that will provide resources, planning grants, technical assistance, and other support.

It is thrilling to see the groundswell of support for an issue that has been a strategic priority for IMLS. The Institute’s latest early learning initiative is also a public-private effort. Our partnership with the BUILD initiative will better integrate museums and libraries into statewide early childhood systems, and teams are already forming in five pilot states. IMLS has worked intensively with partners, like the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and has provided grants of over $8.3 million in the last three years, to support and promote the vital early learning work of libraries and museums.

On December 11, our attention turned from the White House to the Federal Communications Commission. At an Open Commission Meeting, the agency announced a dramatic expansion of the E-rate program. This is the first expansion of the program that, for 18 years, has provided funding to schools and libraries for broadband connectivity. The FCC’s historic E-Rate Modernization Order will provide schools and libraries additional flexibility and options for purchasing broadband services and an additional $1.5 billion in funding starting in 2015.

This is a major win for the library community and has been years in the making. Two summers ago, we discussed E-rate at the Aspen Institute Dialogue on the Future of Libraries. Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt described the importance of that meeting in his Aspen Institute blog about the E-Rate Modernization Order. IMLS held its first public hearing on the need for high-speed broadband in America’s libraries in Washington, D.C., in April 2014. At our “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact” hearing, we establish a public record about the importance of high-speed broadband at libraries with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and high-level philanthropic leaders, policy experts, researchers, and elected officials.

The final news from Washington this week concerns the federal budget. On Tuesday night, President Obama signed into law the trillion-dollar spending bill to fund most federal agencies through fiscal year 2015. The budget for IMLS is $227,860,000. It includes $180,909,000 for library services (through the Library Services and Technology Act) and $30,131,000 for museum services (through the Museum Services Act and the African American History and Culture Act). This funding is an increase from last year of one million dollars to assist the agency with a planned office move in 2015.

During these busy times, IMLS is working especially hard to connect with other federal agencies, with lawmakers on the Hill, with foundations, nonprofits, and service organizations. Through these networks and collaborations, we are amplifying the message of your work and the essential role of museums and libraries in American society.

Posted in Broadband, Director's Messages, Early Learning | Leave a comment

Brand New Books Will Serve Kids in Need

By Kyle Zimmer,
President and CEO, First Book

Libraries and museums have always been important centers of our communities, but their role is even more critical  today.   As we saw in Ferguson, and as we see in inner cities, rural communities and suburban areas around the country, our libraries and museums have become a town square that unifies and heals a community. These institutions have expanded beyond their traditional roles to provide quality community programs supporting everything from early learning to job retraining to continuing education.  Heroic libraries and museums are shouldering these community needs in the face of shrinking or already stretched budgets.

Kyle with little girl.READ sticker

Kyle Zimmer and a young student at Martha’s Table, the DC organization that inspired Zimmer to found First Book.

That’s why I’m thrilled that First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that I lead, is providing assistance to support museums and libraries that serve children from low-income families. First Book provides free and low-cost brand new books and educational resources for kids in need from birth through age 18. The books can be used to add to a library or museum’s collection, to support literacy tutors, to augment cultural programming, to give to children to take home and keep – or for any other activity that helps libraries and museums connect with families in need and gets children excited to read.  Anyone working with kids in need can sign up here, for access to books through:

The First Book National Book Bank: The nation’s only clearinghouse for large-scale book donations from publishers. These brand-new books are available free of charge (plus a shipping & handling fee), in carton quantities, and are perfect for educators or program leaders who want to help children start home libraries of their own.

The First Book Marketplace, which offers over 5,000 popular and award-winning titles at unprecedented prices, available exclusively to educators and programs serving kids in need.  In addition to a full range of books, from Caldecott and Newbery winners, classics and popular titles, to STEM, books for reluctant readers, empowering stories for girls, books promoting peace, college prep and more, the First Book Marketplace also carries other resources requested by those working with kids in need – from nonperishable food to winter coats.  The First Book Marketplace also carries a growing collection under the Stories for All Project, First Book’s industry-wide initiative to increase the diversity in children’s books.

In addition, First Book offers a Virtual Book Drive to help raise funds to bring books to your community.

First Book already works with libraries and museums all over the country.  Just ask library branch manager Suzi Worthen, who used the First Book Marketplace to stock her library shelves with new books and invited the town to a reading party to celebrate.  We know that programs in low income communities have unique needs compared to those in more resourced neighborhoods. If your library serves a low income community, follow Suzi’s lead by registering with First Book and adding your voice to our network. We hope you’ll tell your community partners about First Book and get your entire neighborhood connected to the ongoing free and low cost resources we have available.

All of us at First Book are grateful for the heroic and vital work of our libraries and museums.  Together, we can help ensure that every child has the support and resources they need to read, learn and succeed.

Posted in Early Learning, Economic/Community Development, Education Support | Leave a comment

Wrapping Up a Year of State Library Interviews

By Teri DeVoe
Program Officer, IMLS

Over the past year, the UpNext Blog has featured dozens of interviews with state librarians on priorities for their IMLS Grants to States funds. These annual population-based grants reflect the broad legislative purposes of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), but also the specific goals of each state’s five-year plan. IMLS staff conducted these interviews during the transition from one five-year plan (2008-2012) to another (2013-2017), and although the blog series showcased just half of the states, it pointed to some overarching trends.

 

In reflecting on 2008-2012 community needs, for example, state librarians often mentioned access—a term that surfaces multiple times in the language of LSTA. They made reference to grant-funded resource sharing systems, such as statewide catalogs and interlibrary loan delivery services. They also discussed their work at the state library level to improve Internet connectivity and implement broadband, which was facilitated during that cycle by BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program).

 

Statewide summer reading programs, a mainstay of Grants to States funding, were more commonly included in the previous five-year cycle than in the newer cycle. In the ways they can be adapted as vehicles for literacy-related programming or governors’ initiatives, however, so, it’s clear they’ll continue to have a place in future funding priorities.

 

A librarian sits at the front of a program teaching children.

The Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped not only provides alternative library materials to patrons who need them, but also provides programs to enrich their educational and cultural lives.

There were several types of projects that appeared frequently in both five-year cycle plans. These reflect issues that state libraries are committed to for the long-term, and include  the purchase of statewide databases and e-books; services for special populations, such as the state-designated Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; and early literacy programs. Many of these initiatives ultimately respond to the need for access, as well. Several state librarians mentioned the significant cost savings achieved through database licensing at the statewide level, as well as community segments that might otherwise lose access to electronic content, including schools. They made a compelling case that Grants to States funds help them to increase equity for statewide access to information.

Another frequently mentioned priority was training to help library staff remain responsive to shifting community needs and stay current on emerging technologies. Many state libraries use grant funds to help address training needs for librarians across the state, whether through mini-grants to attend conferences, webinar technology, or consultant-based approaches.

Librarians sitting in a classroom raising their hands.

Like many states, Illinois uses grant funds to support continuing education. Pictured here are attendees of the
Small Public Library Management Institute, a six-day training event hosted by the University of Illinois.

And what were the emerging topics of conversation around the 2013-2017 plans? Based on the economic downturn, more state librarians had workforce development projects on their list of current priorities. Digital literacy, a related topic for adults retooling their skills, also saw an increase in mentions. The emergence of the phrase “21st century skills” in the more recent plans may correspond to an IMLS focus on this topic in recent years. Indeed, several state librarians commented that they look to the agency’s partnerships and priorities to help them establish their own.

These interviews paint a current picture of Grants to States funding, which has served as the backbone of federal support for libraries in America for more than 50 years. It is the agency’s largest grant program, but due to its unique character, it sometimes lacks visibility. Through the 2014 state librarian interview blog series, we were able to bring some of this program’s impact to the fore, while highlighting the varied approaches that characterize LSTA grant making in each state.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Accessibility, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Economic/Community Development, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | Leave a comment

StoryCorps Interview: Mystic Aquarium

Each year, select museums and libraries with outstanding records of community service receive the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. Beginning with the 2009 awardees, personal stories demonstrating the ongoing impact of these award-winning institutions are being documented through a cooperative agreement between IMLS and StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

2014 National Medal Winner Mystic Aquarium

Meranda and Long

I wanted to work here but being a docent just seemed absolutely terrifying..”

At the Mystic Aquarium, Madeline Meranda, 18, talks to her former supervisor, Jeanne Long, about the summer of 2011 when Madeline worked as a volunteer docent.  Madeline share memories of her father, who encouraged her to work at the aquarium.

Listen to their story here:

Download Transcript

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, National Medal for Museum and Library Service, StoryCorps, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | Leave a comment