Each May, the American Library Association (ALA) encourages state library leaders to visit their congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. during its National Library Legislative Day. The two-day advocacy event is being held May 1-2, 2017.

I am scheduled to meet with Idaho congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador and Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch during this year’s event.

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 Budget Blueprint proposes the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums. The IMLS administers the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding that is allocated annually to the state library agency in each state and US Territory.

In Idaho, the annual LSTA funds are administered by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) and have averaged $1.28 million per year over the past five years — that amount equates to approximately .77 cents per Idahoan each year.

LSTA funds and mandated state matching funds support virtually all of the statewide programs and services the ICfL provides to Idaho libraries. Loss of federal funding would fundamentally change the impact the ICfL could make for the more than 860 public, school, academic, and special libraries located throughout the Gem state.

The value of today’s libraries continues to grow and deepen. In Idaho, use of the materials, programs, and resources found in the state’s libraries have increased dramatically, particularly in the past five years.

In fiscal year (FY) 2015, there were more than 8.6 million visits to public libraries in Idaho, and library program attendance by adults grew 40 percent from FY 2010 to 2015. In FY 2014, Idaho libraries had the 5th highest per capita circulation of children’s materials and attendance at children’s programs in the nation. Attendance at young adult programs ranked 7th per capita and has grown 139 percent over the past five years.*

It is so rewarding to see library usage at an all-time high in our state, particularly by the youngest Idahoans. As children and young adults partake in library programs in record numbers throughout the Gem state, it is encouraging to see that participation in initiatives such as Make It at the Library, along with reading and literacy, are helping to educate and inspire the next generation of Idahoans.

Libraries have evolved from places known only for research, reading, and reflection, to becoming the community’s bustling hub of innovation, education, and engagement.