MAINE, USA — The Maine Library Association is hoping to secure more money for Maine libraries in the 2023 federal appropriations bill, and they're asking for help from local communities and a U.S. Senator.
The organization is asking Mainers to fill out a form urging Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is a member of the appropriations committee, to continue her support for library funding. The effort comes ahead of the Congressional decision next week on next year's appropriations bill.
Savannah Sessions, MLA legislative advocacy chairwoman, said libraries offer many services to the community, beyond traditional book lending and online research support.
"Libraries offer technology help, and we offer rental equipment, everything from pressure washers to cross-country skis," Sessions said.
Sessions added that none of these services would be possible without funding, most of it from municipalities.
"We do receive funding from our towns, but anything additional is really a burden and a little bit of a stretch," Sessions said.
Sonya Durney, MLA vice president, said Congress will decide on more than $250 million for libraries and related programs across the country. This money would support infrastructure improvements, library services, and technology.
"It's been, I think, like a quarter-century since federal funds have really focused on library construction and renovation," Ben Treat, director of the Bangor Public Library, said.
It has been 26 years since the Senate Appropriations Committee provided federal funding to support modernizing library buildings. With a need for more broadband in many of Maine's rural communities, for some a library is the only option for internet.
Sessions said some Maine libraries, like hers in Lovell, lack accessibility for people in wheelchairs.
"We've been trying to install an automatic door opener and our first estimate for that was far more than we anticipated," Sessions said.
Even when it comes to the delivery service that transports books from one library to another, Treat said they need funding.
"Libraries have to take in all of those different needs that people have in the community and then find a way to shave every nickel so that we're making everything as cost-effective as possible," Treat said.
In response to the MLA's request for forms to be filled out, Sen. Collins released a statement:
“One of my first jobs was reading to children at the Story Hour at the public library in my hometown of Caribou. I took on other responsibilities and worked at the Library throughout high school. I loved our library and gained a strong appreciation for the role of libraries in our communities. Earlier this year, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and I co-authored a letter that was signed by 47 Senators urging the leaders of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee to increase funding to help ensure that Americans have access to books and the Internet as well as academic and employment resources at public libraries. As the government funding deadline nears, I will continue to support robust funding for library programs.”
"Its a great opportunity to get Maine libraries on track for a really strong future," Durney said.