WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to strengthen library and museum services across the nation, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is introducing the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 along with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  This critical bill renews and builds on the $231 million commitment to the federal museum and library programs administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“Libraries and museums are anchor institutions for their communities, and we need to do all we can to support them in their mission.  The Museum and Library Services Act represents our national commitment to ensuring these institutions are funded, staffed, and accessible to all.  Through a relatively modest federal investment, this law helps build capacity to support and expand access to library and museum services at the state and local level.  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 $1,070,238 from IMLS under the Library and Services and Technology Act Grants to States Program.  

“From offering job search resources and free Internet access to exposing children and families to literary and educational experiences, libraries and museums serve vital roles in our communities,” said Senator Collins.  “The Museum and Library Services Act would bolster our commitment to supporting these institutions that enrich our communities.  Senator Reed and I urge our colleagues to join this effort to improve and update programs that help libraries and museums across Maine, Rhode Island, and the United States.”

“Libraries and museums allow Americans to broaden their knowledge and awareness of our country and the world.  Reauthorizing the Institute for Museum and Library Services would ensure facilities around the nation have access to resources to promote life-long learning,” said Senator Cochran.

“I am a huge fan of libraries and museums.  They enrich our communities, engage Americans of all ages in continued learning, increase economic opportunities, and sustain our values and cultures.  The Museum and Library Services Act will help to strengthen the already amazing libraries and museums across Alaska,” said Senator Murkowski.  “I am  proud to introduce this bill with Senator Reed as it will help Alaska’s diverse libraries and museums advance, further enable the professionals and volunteers who dedicate their energies to these institutions, and improve services for their patrons.  I am grateful to Senator Reed for including recommendations from Alaska’s library and museum community and for including provisions that expand support for and consultation with tribal libraries and museums. ”

“The Institute of Museum and Library Services plays a vital role in helping museums better serve the unique needs of their communities.  We are proud to support this legislation, which will strengthen the agency and enhance its ability to support collections care, education programming, and community outreach,” said Laura Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.  “Museums nationwide are lucky to have champions like Senators Reed, Cochran, Collins, Murkowski, and Gillibrand fighting for them in the United States Senate.”

“Today’s introduction of the bipartisan MLSA reauthorization is the first critical step toward ensuring federal support for our nation’s nearly 120,000 libraries,” said American Library Association President Jim Neal.  “LSTA grants enable libraries in every state to innovate and meet the growing demand for services that meet the needs of our communities. Millions of people – including students, veterans, entrepreneurs and job seekers – depend on the programs that the MLSA will allow to continue.  ALA supports this bill and encourages our members and library supporters across the country to urge their senators to cosponsor the MLSA."

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.

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.

U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) was instrumental in crafting the first Museum and Library Services Act in 1996.  Last year marked the twenty-year anniversary of Senator Pell’s bill, along with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the first federal program of direct support to public libraries and the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Institute of Museum Services to provide assistance to museums.

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.