Empowering Libraries: Advocating for Federal Funding and Community Impact

6 min read

| By Ellen Rutledge and Alex Suzore |

Gale knows libraries. For 70 years, we have been a vital partner for libraries across the country—in fact, more than 88% of public libraries and 84% of high school students in the United States have access to Gale resources. So when Randy Riley, state librarian of Michigan, asked if Gale would meet with legislators at Voices for Libraries in Washington, DC, of course, we said yes!  

Gale leadership wanted to show that our commitment to libraries extends far beyond offering digital and print resources for K-12, colleges, universities, workforce development, and more. Gale is a consistent supporter of increasing legislation and public awareness of libraries’ educational value and statewide economic impact.

Our Library Voices 2024 participants, Alex Suzore, inside sales consultant, and Ellen Rutledge, senior director, Customer Operations & Systems, had the privilege of joining forces with directors from Michigan’s public libraries to lobby for crucial federal funding. Their mission was clear: to secure support for the Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. These funds are not just numbers on a budget; they are lifelines for communities across the nation, fueling services that range from assisting autistic children to supporting veterans and small businesses.

During the two-day trip, which lasted March 6–7, 2024, American Library Association President Emily Drabinski reminded library directors from across the United States that “We don’t get what we don’t fight for.” This statement resonated deeply, emphasizing the urgency of the cause. The LSTA’s funding level in 2023 is slightly below that of 2010, despite libraries continually expanding their services. To help fight for funding, there were two things Ellen and Alex highlighted in the legislator meetings: telling the story of how the funding impacts the educational value in each community and showing how the funding impacts the economy.

Michigan library directors shared inspiring examples of how they have used LSTA funds to make a tangible difference. Dillon Geshel, director, Superiorland Library Cooperative, and president-elect, Michigan Library Association, spoke to how the Marquette library provides hotspots for patrons without internet access in a meeting with Congressman John James’ staff (Wayne County, MI). In the same meeting, Juliane Morian, library director at Rochester Hills Public Library, highlighted its century of service. In another meeting with Congressman Shri Thanedar’s staff (Wayne County, MI), Jessica Keyser, director, Grosse Point Public Library, emphasized how launching initiatives like “Appy Hour” are crucial to bridging the technology literacy gap among senior citizens. And Larry Neal, director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, pointed out in a meeting with Congressman Jack Bergman’s (Upper and Lower Peninsula, MI) staff that librarians are experts at maximizing every dollar to benefit their communities.

John Clexton, director of Gladwin County District Library, spoke with John Moolenaar’s (MI-2) staff about how his library was turned into a FEMA site when his community was impacted by flooding in 2023. They were the only place in town that had internet access, so FEMA set up in their library to help residents. All these stories underscored the transformative and educational impact of federal funding.

As representatives of Gale, Alex and Ellen went to Washington, DC, to emphasize the economic impact LSTA funding has on the economy. LSTA funding received by the state enables public libraries to purchase digital and print resources from Gale. The LSTA funds strengthen digital access equity by making resources available to all libraries, irrespective of the number of patrons served by the library.

As we continue our advocacy efforts, it is clear that the fight for federal funding is not just about libraries—it is about the communities they serve. By securing support for LSTA and IAL, we can ensure that libraries remain vibrant centers of learning, innovation, and connection. Let us continue to stand together and fight for the resources our libraries need to thrive.

Meet the Authors

Ellen Rutledge has served as the Sr. Director of Customer Operations & Systems at Cengage Group, a global education technology company, for two years. Previously, she was Director of the IT Client Services department at NewRez, national mortgage lender, for nearly seven years. Ellen’s primary objective at both companies was implementing processes to optimize customer and IT support service delivery.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University. In Ellen’s free time, she enjoys travel with her husband, HGTV type projects, and supporting important causes such as Library Voices 2024.

Alex Suzore has been an Inside Sales Educational Consultant for Gale, part of Cengage Group, for a little over two years.  She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Organizational Development, with a focus on Training.  Education has always been a cornerstone in her life, so working with Public Libraries to enhance their communities’ educational offerings is a perfect fit.  She lives in Michigan with her husband and two kids.  When she isn’t being a taxi driver for her kids, she loves to read, run, and bake. 

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