11/30/2018 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) unanimously approved U.S. Senators Jack Reed’s (D-RI) Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 (S.3530) this week and advanced it to consideration by the full Senate. 

Introduced by Senators Reed, Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), this critical legislation renews and builds on the $240 million commitment to the federal museum and library programs administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Despite President Trump’s repeated efforts to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports programs at over 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums nationwide, the unanimous HELP Committee vote to approve Reed’s bill signals there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for supporting the federal agency that helps museums and libraries serve their communities.

“We must do all we can to support libraries and museums, which serve as anchor institutions for their communities and are beacons of education, connectivity, and discussion across our nation.  The Museum and Library Services Act is a crucial step toward ensuring that these institutions are funded, staffed, and accessible to all.  Through a relatively modest federal investment, this law helps build the capacity to support and expand access to library and museum services at the state and local level, and it will help fully leverage the role of libraries and museums in supporting the learning, educational, and workforce development needs of Americans nationwide,” said Senator Reed, who noted that, since the last reauthorization in 2010, Rhode Island libraries and museums have received over $10 million in federal grants from these programs.  This year, Rhode Island has received $1,082,194 from IMLS under the Library and Services and Technology Act Grants to States Program.  “This bill will help to ensure that small states like Rhode Island are able to receive a fair share of library funding and will help these institutions to adapt to ever-changing community needs.”

“Public libraries and museums are central community institutions in Maine and throughout the country.  Increasingly, libraries have emerged as hubs not just for literacy and Internet access, but for workforce support and access to important information.  The bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act represents a commitment to supporting libraries and museums that do more than accumulate artifacts – they tell stories that enrich our communities and inspire the minds of future generations,” said Senator Collins.  “Our bill would bolster that commitment, and I will continue to work with Senator Reed to ensure that libraries and museums across the country receive this vital support.” 

The American Library Association sent a letter this week to HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) expressing support for Senator Reed’s bill, noting that:  “The stated mission of IMLS — to “inspire libraries to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement” — is crucial to the success of our country’s 120,000 libraries, which serve constituents in every state and congressional district, from rural America to our nation’s suburbs and cities.”

Senator Reed’s bill highlights the role of libraries and museums as community hubs, equipped to meet ever evolving community needs.  Updating the law to help museums and libraries improve their technology, enhance collaboration, and better serve the public and communities, the reauthorization bill will:

  • Strengthen the use of data-driven tools, including research, analysis and modeling, evaluation, and dissemination, to measure the impact and maximize the effectiveness of library and museum services, build capacity, and better tailor local services to address and meet community needs.
  • Provide technical support and assistance to improve data collection; enhance consultation and public engagement in research, data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities; and ensure that disseminated materials are accessible and easy to digest and use.
  • Enhance IMLS’s collaborative efforts with an expanded number of federal agencies to fully leverage the role of libraries and museums in supporting and meeting the needs of Americans.
  • Increase the reservation for Services for Native Americans to more closely match appropriations.
  • Provide IMLS with additional tools to meet oversight and programmatic responsibilities.
  • Highlight the roles of libraries as community hubs, equipped to serve evolving and diverse community needs (including those of rural residents, individuals with disabilities, Native Americans, veterans, military families, and caregivers, among others) in such areas as literacy; education; lifelong learning; health information; workforce development; economic and business development; digital literacy, critical thinking, and financial literacy; and new and emerging technology.
  • Provide for the awarding of National Leadership grant funds on activities that serve a range of library types and geographically diverse areas; include evaluation, analysis, and dissemination components; and actively involve, have direct impact on, or provide future application in libraries.  Clarifies that grant funds can be used to help libraries prepare for and provide services after a disaster or emergency.
  • Emphasize recruiting and training of our nation’s next generation of library and information science professionals – necessary for an information economy – from a broad range of backgrounds.
  • Authorize activities to improve the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals to preserve our heritage for future generations. 
  • Highlight the educational role of museums and the many ways that they engage and strengthen their communities.
  • Encourage partnerships with other agencies, professional networks, and community-based organizations to leverage museum services in service to the nation.

In addition to Collins, Gillibrand, and Murkowski, Reed’s Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 is cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The American Alliance of Museums reports that there are nearly 850 million visits per year to American museums, and that U.S. museums inject approximately $21 billion into the economy each year.

Senator Reed wrote the last Museum and Library Service Act reauthorization law, which President Obama signed in 2010.  This year’s reauthorization must be passed by both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives before it can be sent to the President to be signed into law.