Your public library provides an amazing array of services to the community –books are only the tip of the iceberg.

David Shumaker
May 30 · 5 min read

While most library funding comes from local sources, the Federal government supplies critical funds for some things the local community couldn’t provide on its own. Here’s a short list of seven specific services that Federal money supports for your library.

1. Information to Keep Your Family Healthy

Keeping the family healthy is at the top of every parent’s to-do list. But when a health care question comes up, where can you go for accurate information? After all, there’s so much bad information on the Internet these days. Many times, your public library can help. It’s one of the most trusted institutions in the community, with staff who are committed to helping you find the best, most authoritative information. But who helps your local library staff keep up with the continuous flow of new health care knowledge? The National Library of Medicine, that’s who. Part of the Federal government’s prestigious National Institutes of Health, NLM offers a national network that any library can join to get training and funding for improving health care information in the community. Go to https://nnlm.gov/members/directory/ to find out if your public library is already a member. If not, ask them to join!

2. WiFi and Internet Access in your library and schools

If you’ve ever wondered what that “Universal Service Fee” is on your monthly phone bill, here’s the answer. It might just be enabling your local libraries and schools to afford WiFi and Internet access. A chunk of the fee — over $4 billion in 2018 — goes to the “e-rate” program that makes technology affordable for schools and libraries. Each school or library determines its own need, and then applies for funding to help them acquire what they need. Want to find out how your community is benefitting? Visit the search page of the Universal Service Administrative Company, which manages the program, at https://data.usac.org/publicreports/SearchCommitments/Search/SearchByYear .

3. Library services for blind and physically handicapped members of your community

Working with your state and local public library, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS, a unit of the Library of Congress) makes reading materials and library resources accessible to the people in your community who can’t use printed books. A model of federal-state cooperation, NLS works through a nationwide network of agencies in every state and US territories. It provides materials in Braille and recorded formats, as well as downloadable files via an Internet-based service called BARD. Access is available to those who qualify, not only due to low vision but also due to physical impairments that prevent the use of standard printed materials. Check it out at https://www.loc.gov/nls/ .

4. Overcoming “Summer Slump”

Kids love summer vacation. For many, it’s a time for family trips or going away to camp or just hanging with friends. But it’s been shown that they can forget a lot of what they learned in the classroom during those lazy summer days. They fall prey to “Summer Slump”, and the first few weeks back at school in the fall have to be spent reviewing what they already learned last year. How to overcome this problem? Libraries to the rescue! Thanks to funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Urban Libraries Council and the National Summer Learning Association created the “Accelerate Summer” program that takes the traditional library Summer Reading program and expands it to deal with Summer Slump head-on. See https://www.imls.gov/news-events/project-profiles/accelerate-summer-public-libraries-evolving-summer-reading-programs

5. Community poetry workshops for cops and kids

With a Federal Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) grant awarded to Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library from the State Library of Ohio Institute for Museum and Library Services, the library brought together local police officers and middle school students. The workshops culminated in a public reading at the Eastlake City Hall. Commenting on the program’s outcome, Police Chief Larry Reik said, “Anything we do that gets us involved with the community, and gives kids another opinion on police officers, is important.” Read more at https://www.imls.gov/news-events/project-profiles/if-these-streets-could-talk-uniting-cops-and-kids-through-poetry .

6. Library of Congress Cultural And Historical Digital Collections

Do you have to visit Washington DC to see the Library of Congress? No! Thanks to digital technology, your local library can showcase many of the Library’s rich cultural and historical resources — and you can visit too! Check out the Library’s digital collections at https://www.loc.gov/collections/ . Maybe your favorite will be the Stern Collection of Abraham Lincoln materials, with its 360-degree rotatable life mask of our 16th President (https://www.loc.gov/item/scsm001047/ )

7. Serving Military Families and Veterans

Military families and veterans have unique information needs. Public libraries have information. But how to connect the two so that current and past service members and their families get the information they need, when they need it? That’s where the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services comes in. Their “Community Salute” initiative provides your library staff with proven practices to make sure they connect with the military and veteran communities effectively. It helps them relate to the different experiences and the stages of the military experience, from active duty, to transitioning to civilian life, to life as a veteran. Plus, it helps put principles into practice through partnerships, like its AmericaServes partnership with Syracuse University and the Buncombe, North Carolina, public library. See https://www.imls.gov/issues/national-issues/veterans and https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/grants/lg-94-17-0244/proposals/lg-94-17-0244-17_proposal_documents.pdf for more.

So the next time you visit your public library — in person or online — think “these are my Federal tax dollars at work — benefitting my own community.”

EveryLibrary supports library funding at all levels of government. Become a part of the movement today!

EveryLibrary

Stories about libraries and librarians around America. We cover the breadth of experiences that people have through their libraries, and showcase the amazing people who work there.

David Shumaker

Written by

Dave is a retired professor and former corporate information manager. He is the author of “The Embedded Librarian” and many articles on library services.

EveryLibrary

Stories about libraries and librarians around America. We cover the breadth of experiences that people have through their libraries, and showcase the amazing people who work there.

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