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LSTA Funding in RI: Frequently Asked Questions

Programs and services of the Office of Library and Information Services are funded with a mix of state and federal funds. Federal funds are received under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) through the Grants to States program, administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The President has proposed eliminating the IMLS. In Rhode Island, LSTA funds help support:

  • Summer reading programs for children and teens that are hosted by every public library in the Rhode Island.
  • Interlibrary loan and delivery services that enable Rhode Islanders to connect with hard-to-find research materials at libraries around the state or around the world.
  • Library services for Rhode Islanders who are blind, visually impaired or physically disabled through the Talking Books program.
  • Workforce support services and language learning tools through AskRI.
  • Support for local libraries to help develop and preserve collections and to enhance and expand learning opportunities for Rhode Islanders.

For more information on the above services, refer to LSTA Funding and RI Libraries.

Frequently Asked Questions

If the Institute of Museum of Library and Services (IMLS) is eliminated, will my public library close?

No. Rhode Island public libraries are funded primarily with local funds from the city or town they are located in, along with state funds. Many libraries also rely on private donations and endowment funds to support services to their community.

If the IMLS is eliminated, will state funding for libraries be affected?

No. The State of Rhode Island funds state aid to libraries (grant-in-aid) with "general revenue," that is, funds raised through taxes paid by the people of Rhode Island.

If the IMLS is eliminated, would that affect the library delivery service?

Somewhat. OLIS pays a vendor to pick up, sort, and deliver materials to over 200 libraries in the state. Most of the service contract is funded by the state; 12% of the contract cost is paid with federal funds. As a result, the service may face a 12% reduction if federal funds are eliminated.

If all these programs are paid for with state funds, would it really affect Rhode Island libraries if IMLS is eliminated?

Yes. Federal funds pay for a number of programs at OLIS that would be eliminated or substantially reduced if federal funding were to be eliminated. These programs include:

  • Summer reading programs for children, teens and adults, including Kids Reading Across Rhode Island
  • Talking Books Plus, library service for the blind and physically handicapped
  • AskRI tools for online test preparation and language learning (Learning Express Library, Mango Languages)
  • Workshops and professional development classes for librarians and library staff
  • Coordination and support for statewide programs for adult education, digital literacy, health literacy and media literacy
  • Disaster planning and preservation assistance
  • OLIS staff support for libraries, including support for delivery services, children's services, young adult services and reference services

Isn't Talking Books Plus a federal service supported by the Library of Congress? Why would that be affected?

The Library of Congress National Library Service provides digital books on cartridges and through online download along with the machines to play the books. Delivery of the materials is provided for free by the United States Postal Service. Every state has a talking books library for the blind and physically handicapped. However, every state must arrange to store the books and equipment, and ship the materials to people who use the service. In addition, the states must also provide staff to handle these functions and serve people using the service. Many people who use Talking Books are elderly and do not have computers, which requires a high level of customer service. In Rhode Island, OLIS contracts with the Perkins Library in Massachusetts to store, ship and manage materials and equipment; OLIS staff enroll Rhode Islanders in the service and provide daily customer service, placing books orders, helping patrons use the service, and managing the service. Federal LSTA funds are used to pay for the contract with Perkins and OLIS staff who provide the Talking Books Service.

How much of AskRI would be impacted?

Federal funds are used to pay for Learning Express Library and Mango Languages. Learning Express provides online test preparation services and tutorials for professional licenses needed by commercial drivers, plumbers, electricians, allied health services, nurses, cosmetologists, postal workers, real estate professionals, teachers, emergency medical services etc., as well as college entrance examinations and careers in the military, police and firefighting. Learning Express also provides test preparation materials for high school equivalency and citizenship tests, with resources in English and Spanish. Mango Languages provides online learning tools for over 70 foreign languages and English language learning courses for 20 foreign languages.

Other AskRI resources, including EBSCO databases, World Book and AtoZ databases are supported with state funds. Most staff support, including all services provided by the Providence Public Library serving as the Statewide Reference Resource Center, is paid for with state funds. EBSCO databases include Academic Search, Masterfile, History Reference Center, NoveList, Points of View, Biography Reference Center, Literary Reference Center, Consumer Health, and Auto Repair.

How many OLIS staff are paid with LSTA funds?

Most OLIS staff are paid with a mix of state and LSTA funds. In 2017, out of 12 staff, 9 staff are paid with a mix of LSTA and state funds; adding up the percentage of salaries covered by federal funds, the equivalent of 5.5 FTEs are funded with federal funds.

If the IMLS is eliminated, when would Rhode Island libraries feel the effect?

Loss of LSTA funding would have a minimal impact on OLIS operations in state fiscal year 2018 and a major impact on the following year. The federal government currently does not have a budget and is running under a "Continuing Resolution" (CR) through April 28, 2017. Under the CR, LSTA Grants to States were awarded with partial funding for 2017; Rhode Island's partial award is 21% less than the full 2016 award. The 2017 award would be expended in state fiscal year 2018, resulting in minimal disruption of services in 2018 (see note for an explanation of how Grants to States are awarded). OLIS and Rhode Island libraries would experience significant reductions of services beginning in July 2018 if the IMLS and LSTA funding were eliminated.

This doesn't sound good for Rhode Island libraries. What can I do?

Information will be placed on the OLIS website as it becomes available. Additionally, the Rhode Island Library Association, the Coalition of Library Advocates and other RI library organizations are strong advocates for Rhode Island's libraries.

LSTA Funding in Rhode Island - Additional Resources


*Federal fiscal years run 3 months behind state fiscal years; federal fiscal years begin in October while the state fiscal year begins in July. LSTA funding is awarded for a two year period; OLIS generally expends its LSTA grant in the state year that starts the year after the grant award. That is, the 2017 award, which was made in January 2017, will be spent in state fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018).