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Libraries Seek Congressional Relief While Providing Pandemic Support

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Monday, February 8, 2021   

SEATTLE -- Libraries across the country have provided critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, even when their doors closed, and the institutions hope Congress won't leave them behind on relief.

Lisa Rosenblum, executive director of the King County Library System, said her libraries have continued to support local communities.

One example is helping older Washingtonians book vaccine appointments.

"There's just an assumption that everybody has the ability to do that, and what we're seeing out here is they don't," Rosenblum explained. "Our seniors are very frustrated. So a robust digital presence is what we're trying to push out here. We're loaning out laptops. We're boosting our Wi-Fi signals."

Rosenblum noted libraries also have provided wireless internet for families, including through hotspots in their parking lots, so students can access online schooling. They are also able to accommodate telemedicine appointments.

She stressed libraries could support even more folks with additional funding.

Julius Jefferson, Jr., president of the American Library Association, said he wants $200 million in funding for the Library Services and Technology Act, with a minimum of $2 million going to each state.

"We know that Congress is negotiating the details of this relief package," Jefferson observed. "They're trying to hammer this out and we hope that this is what they're thinking about when they provide funding for communities; that they think about libraries."

Rosenblum contended libraries are community connectors, and even though folks couldn't come to their physical locations, libraries never really closed their doors.

"We're doing a lot of online, digital services, programs and story times for adults, for children," Rosenblum outlined. "And we immediately pivoted and we can pivot back. If you support us, we could really use it and we are a trusted community partner. So we want to be at the table."

Disclosure: American Library Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Census, and Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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