Skip Navigation
Back to Navigation


The nation’s largest public libraries anchor communities and serve as hubs for economic and community advancement. They provide critical resources across employment, health, information access, civic engagement and social services for jobseekers, small businesses, immigrants, seniors, families with children, students and those bridging the digital divide.

ULC’s advocacy strategy seeks to garner more support and funding for policies that strengthen and advance the essential role of public libraries. Through engagement with lawmakers in Congress and U.S. federal agencies, we advocate for several key policy positions that center the critical role that public libraries play in urban communities.

On this page you can find information about ULC’s policy priorities, updates on key legislation and access to additional resources.


Policy and Legislative Priorities

    To preserve, improve and expand library services in communities nationwide, Congress should consider the policy recommendations outlined below.

    1. Funding & Partnership Opportunities

    Libraries are essential public infrastructure that need to be preserved for future generations.

    • Bolster support for infrastructure through federal grants, extending historic site preservation to libraries and include public libraries in future infrastructure legislation, and/or support a national public library infrastructure bill.
    • Support the reauthorization of Museum and Library Services Act, including ensuring future investments in our nation’s public library as essential community assets.
    • Support increased funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support its broad mission of supporting all types of libraries, state library agencies, archives and museums nationally.

    Public libraries are leaders in workforce development, digital inclusion and economic mobility.

    • Increase literacy and education funding nationally and support legislative policies and investments in the U.S. Department of Education and IMLS which advance the role of the public library.
    • Ensure inclusion and new funding for libraries through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reauthorization.
    • Access to existing funding to support programs and partnerships led by public libraries in skill development and workforce training.
    • Advance investments in public libraries as digital leaders including support for broadband, devices and E-Rate, including sustainable funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and off-campus use of E-Rate funds.

    2. Awareness Opportunities

    As ULC begins engagement with Congress and U.S. federal agencies, we seek to educate them on key issues facing public libraries to inform legislation and funding opportunities.

    Urban libraries have many essential mandates that are not fully recognized in federal funding opportunities. This includes providing access to health and mental health support, offering citizenship classes and supporting unhoused individuals.

    • Build congressional and federal agency awareness and advocating for the role and need for public libraries in health services including public health, mental health and social workers.
    • Increase congressional and federal agency awareness and support for public housing and affordable housing partnerships with public libraries.
    • Increase awareness of public libraries as pathways to citizenship and civic engagement.

    Intellectual freedom and access to information is a fundamental value of democracy and individual rights.

    • Adhere to the value that libraries are places where people can read and learn freely from all points of view, make up their own minds and engage in their communities.
    • Active support of efforts to protect intellectual freedom, including a congressional anti-book ban legislation.
    • Advance congressional awareness of the issues for public libraries on access and fair pricing for e-content, including the need to modernize copyright law.

    Education and literacy across a lifetime remain core to a healthy economy and strong nation.

    • Educate congressional and federal agency partners on the role libraries play in building strong local economies, supporting entrepreneurship and expanding economic opportunity.
    • Partner with national organizations to increase funding for out-of-school programs and resources, and increase awareness of early childhood and family literacy programs. For college and career readiness, advance the role of libraries as on-ramps to earning a high school diploma or attending college.
    • Support the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program by the U.S. Department of Education.
    Download a PDF of ULC's Legislative and Policy Priorities

    Legislation to Watch

      Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

      Congress should expand reauthorization of the WIOA to provide additional funding for public libraries around adult education programs, workforce training, and college and career navigation services.

      The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014. It is designed to help jobseekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The bill is up for reauthorization in the current 118th Congress. The bipartisan Stronger Workforce for America Act (H.R. 6655) was approved by committee in December 2023. In the Senate, the bipartisan Adult Education WORKS Act (S. 3075) was introduced in October 2023 and seeks to reauthorize adult education programs and expand upon the WIOA.

      Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

      Congress should provide an additional $7 billion appropriation to the ACP, so that is funded through 2024. Libraries play an important role in outreach to the families, veterans, students and seniors who qualify for high-speed internet access discounts.

      The Affordable Connectivity Program is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. In January 2024, the bipartisan Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act was introduced in the House (H.R.6929) and Senate (S.3565). It seeks to further close the digital divide by allowing more than 22.5 million households remain access to affordable high-speed internet. ULC is one of the 400 organizations that support this bill.

      Congressionally Directed Spending

      Congress should approve earmark request from public libraries for individual projects. Guidelines for FY25 are still being developed by House and Senate appropriators.

      Congressionally directed spending, commonly referred to as earmarks, allow members of Congress to direct federal discretionary funds towards a specific entity within their district or state. Earmarks can promote economic development, education, health care initiatives, and other worthy investments in communities. According to the American Library Association, earmark requests for library projects in FY22 and FY23 typically fall between $50,000 to $2 million.

      News and Updates

        March 6, 2024 — As ULC kicks off our federal advocacy efforts, we are meeting with staff in House and Senate offices on both sides of the aisle. In these conversations, we are introducing policymakers to the issues impacting ULC member libraries. Through these meetings — often with key members of the House and Senate Appropriations, House Education & Workforce and Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension committees — we are identifying areas for one-time funding for libraries through earmarks, as well as building support for economic development programs and digital equity funding for public libraries.