AILA Statement on Proposed Federal Budget

April 6, 2017

The American Indian Library Association (AILA) is strongly opposed to President Trump’s proposed federal budget that eliminates funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that provides critical support for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian libraries, archives, and museums across the country.

The IMLS Native American Library Services grants help keep tribal libraries running by funding book collections updates, creating and enhancing library programming, providing technology support, and supporting staff salaries. Moreover, federal funds have been used to address critical needs for Native American communities, including language revitalization, cultural heritage programming, and the maintenance of tribal archival collections.

Without federal funding, many tribal libraries and archives may face closure or severe cuts in services.

The elimination of IMLS funding would be significant in Indian Country. IMLS-funded projects that have had positive impacts on Native American library and information services, as well as graduate school scholarships and continuing education include:

  • Native American Library Services Basic Grants. These are one year grants that are designed to support the operations of tribal and Native village libraries. Basic Grants are available to all federally recognized Native American tribes and Native Alaskan villages. IMLS awarded 226 Basic Grants in 2016.
  • Native American Library Services Enhancement Grants. These are competitive grants designed to expand or implement new library services. In 2016, IMLS awarded 14 Enhancement Grants, including projects focused on STEM education, GED preparation, as well as digitizing audio collections, enhancing early literacy projects, creating culturally-based materials for children and adults, archiving elders interviews, and addressing traditional ecological knowledge.
  • Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program for Continued Education. IMLS grants have been a key source of funding for professional development for practicing librarians and archivists in Native American communities. Given the broad array of responsibilities of many tribal library workers––from children’s programming to fundraising to archival services––continuing education is critical. Because of their geographic isolation and relatively low budgets, tribal librarians often cannot meet regularly with their peers or attend professional conferences. These conferences include the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums hosted by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM); the Tribal College Librarians Institute hosted by Montana State University Library; and Convening Great Lakes Culture Keepers, coordinated by the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Information.
  • Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program for Graduate School Scholarships. Providing scholarships to increase the number of credentialed Native American librarians is a crucial step in addressing the lack of degreed librarians in Indian Country. IMLS-funded scholarships that have impacted Native American librarians have included Knowledge River (University of Arizona), Honoring Generations (University Texas at Austin), the Circle of Learning (San Jose State University), and the Spectrum Scholarship (American Library Association).
  • Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. A partnership of five ethnic caucuses of the American Library Association (American Indian Library Association, Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Chinese American Librarians Association, and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking), JCLC advocates for and promotes diversity and supports literacy and the preservation of history and cultural heritage of communities of color.

Funding for Native American libraries and information services has been a long struggle for those committed to the development of libraries in Indian Country since the 1970s. Strong and consistent advocacy from American Indian leaders helped to secure federal funding for tribes to meet their library and information needs. Vine Deloria, Jr. and other American Indian leaders have reminded us that tribal library funding is a federal obligation under Indian treaties where tribes sacrificed land and resources in exchange for educational services.

An affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), the American Indian Library Association is a membership action group that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. AILA is committed to standing up for federal funding that supports information access and knowledge stewardship in Indian Country, and beyond.

For more information, please contact the American Indian Library Association’s Save Tribal Library Funding Campaign at: