WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help libraries nationwide respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing communities with needed services, resources, technology, and broadband access, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today introduced the Library Stabilization Fund Act.  This legislation would provide $2 billion in federal funding for public libraries nationwide through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  The bill includes formula funding to states with a $10 million small state minimum, as well as funding to tribes and the establishment of a $200 million competitive grant program, all designed to help strengthen libraries’ ability to provide services to communities impacted by COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our daily lives.  Libraries, which anchor our local communities, are no exception.  Local budget shortfalls have left libraries to grapple with severe cuts, furloughs of staff, and reduced operations just when communities need their services the most.  In addition to providing additional resources to enable schools to reopen safely, close the homework gap, and strengthen the social safety net, we need to invest in libraries to help our communities recover,” said Senator Reed.  “This legislation will help ensure libraries can safely weather COVID-19 and continue to find new ways to bridge the digital divide and safely provide information, books, programming, and services that people of all ages need to stay engaged and informed.  This is a smart investment in our libraries to keep people and communities connected and contribute to our economic recovery.”

American Library Association President Julius Jefferson, Jr. stated: “At a time when budgets of local governments have been decimated, America can’t afford to dismiss a national infrastructure of 117,000 libraries nimble enough to offer relief and advance recovery.  The Library Stabilization Fund Act is the comprehensive federal response needed to keep our nation’s libraries safely in operation, and ALA is throwing the full weight of our advocacy network into supporting the bill.  ALA applauds Senator Reed’s leadership in recognizing that the library services Americans rely on are utterly dependent on library funding.”

Reed’s library bill is sponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

In May, Senator Reed led a bipartisan letter with 45 colleagues urging Senate leaders to include additional library funding in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Unfortunately, due to the spread of COVID-19, the American Library Association (ALA) is projecting billions of dollars in losses to libraries, and without an immediate robust infusion of federal support, libraries will be forced to make massive cuts, both in terms of staffing and purchases,” the 46 Senators wrote.  “Furloughs of library staff have already begun.  These library cuts would ripple throughout our communities, affecting support for education, workforce recovery, and access to computers and the Internet.  To avoid the devastating impact of these cuts, the ALA estimates that $2 billion in funding is needed.”

Reed and his colleagues also noted that even though many libraries have limited public access due to COVID-19 restrictions, they are offering technology and services to connect students to distance and summer learning, those with jobs to telework, job seekers to employment opportunities and training, and vulnerable adults and seniors who are homebound and need a lifeline to health information, government services, and social interaction.

“Libraries are working hard every day to meet these needs by increasing access to digital educational content, computing devices, and broadband connections; delivering books; boosting e-book offerings, movie rentals, and other reading and entertainment resources; and hosting online story times, virtual classes, exhibitions, and discussion groups,” the Senators continued.  “Libraries are also leveraging their physical spaces to host local emergency planning meetings and serving as distribution points for food, medical supplies, student laptops, books, and hotspots.  They are lending and using their 3D printers to print face-shields and related items for health workers.  Other gaps libraries are filling include calling patrons who lack Internet access to check in on them, holding family reading programs on local radio stations, and addressing career development needs for those who have been laid off.  Libraries, like other public and private institutions, are keeping up with this community demand for information resources while also experiencing lost revenue that will only deepen as this health and economic crisis continues.”

The Library Stabilization Fund would help libraries:

  • Continue to provide library services to their communities, including by supporting general operations, paying staff, sustaining the ongoing functionality of libraries (including by purchasing deep cleaning services and coronavirus response supplies), and ensuring the continued development of, and training of library staff on, best practices for the safe handling of library materials and ways to sustain reopening and operations;
  • Safely provide access to computers, printers, copiers, and other technology in libraries, to expand digital network access, purchase and lend Internet accessible devices such as hotspots and laptops, and purchase and lend digital resources, and to provide technical support services for users in the library and for those using borrowed devices remotely;
  • Strengthen and expand services and resources relating to early education and literacy, distance learning and education (including through partnerships with public schools to ensure continuity of education and address learning loss), adult education, job searches and resume building, workforce development and skills training, economic and business development, health information, digital literacy skills, and financial literacy; and
  • Ensure access to government and community services, cultural resources, and related functions and activities.

The Library Stabilization Fund is supported by numerous organizations, including the American Library Association; Association for Rural & Small Libraries; Association of Research Libraries; Chief Officers of State Library Agencies; Common Sense Media; International Dyslexia Association; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Coalition for Literacy; National Humanities Alliance; National Digital Inclusion Alliance; National League of Cities; Reach Out and Read; Reading Is Fundamental; and Urban Libraries Council.

Companion legislation is being introduced on a bipartisan basis in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI).