April 8, 2021

Librarians Lobby Leaders on Infrastructure Initiative


A line of shovels stands ready to be deployed, perhaps in the building of a library.

If there is one thing we have learned over the years, it is that librarians are fierce! So it came as no surprise when the American Library Association (ALA) sent an emphatically worded missive to the new president asking him to ensure that libraries would not be overlooked in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“We are deeply concerned,” said ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, “that the administration’s infrastructure plan fails to include funding for library facilities and would provide only half the level of grants for school facilities that was approved by the House last year.” Never fear, though … librarians and their allies high and low are urging passage of the Build America’s Libraries Act (BALA), which would restore much-needed funding to America’s libraries.

Needless to say we here at (virtual) John Street are ardently in favor of libraries of all stripes. Leaving aside that they are a stable and consistent customer base for indie presses like this one, public libraries are a pillar of the American polis, providing free access to literature, books, and the internet. The managing editor is particularly fond of the New York Public Library (NYPL) and its vast digital resources, which include free access to the Oxford series of encyclopedias and handbooks. (And at the 34th Street branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), you can even sign up to use a Bloomberg terminal. Fancy!) Studies have shown that public libraries contribute to lessened income inequality and greater economic opportunity for their patrons in urban settings.

And the ALA has made it easy to show your support, with a resource page that has an online petition, press releases, and sample letters to the editor. Like all public good, libraries need to be advocated and fought for. After all, infrastructure isn’t just physical roads and bridges — it includes the roads and bridges of the mind … the most important resource of them all.


Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.