As the father of five children, Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, relied heavily on the Clark County library system.
“We would take our kids to lap sit at the library and leave with 30 books — for each child,” he recalled. “Our home was full of books. There’s no way we could have afforded that without the library. We also participated in musicals at the library. It’s just an integral part of my family.”
Denis was among several lawmakers who joined with librarians, including Churchill County Library Director Carol Lloyd, from across the state for Nevada Library Day at the Legislature on Wednesday.
“Churchill County received $65,000 in grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) from 2013-2016 with over 3,700 people benefiting,” Lloyd later shared with the LVN. “Additionally IMLS federal funds support statewide projects including Nevada Talking Books Services, Summer Reading Program, library staff continuing education, electronic databases, Nevada Reads and other ventures which serve all Nevada residents. Loss of this funding would surely have a negative impact on the residents of Churchill County.”
Nearly 50 library representatives spent the day speaking with lawmakers about the effects of proposed federal cuts and to ask for increased funding for libraries to grow their collections and databases. They also want to restore the World Book Encyclopedia online subscription as well as increase funding for the state’s three Bookmobiles that deliver library services to remote areas.
“I view the library as a window to the world,” said Denis, a former Las Vegas-Clark County Library District board member. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, you can go to the library and, through books or technology, transport yourself anywhere in the world. It’s amazing.”
Finally, library representatives asked legislators to create a contingency fund that would buffer libraries in case of federal cuts.
“It’s a critical issue for us,” said Nancy Cummings-Schmidt, the vice chairwoman of the State Council on Libraries and Literacy and retired Washoe County library director. “The federal funding that comes down supports programs in every single county in the state of Nevada. It touches every nook and cranny of our state. It has made a big difference for families, children and seniors.”
President Trump’s plan calls for the elimination of the $230 million budget for the Institute of Museum and Library Services along with three other cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Nevada libraries would lose $3.5 million over the next two years.
“Our cultural infrastructure in this country is going to be gutted if these entities go under,” Cummings-Schmidt said. “It will be devastating not only in Nevada, but all across the country.”
Library representatives spent the morning in meetings and attending floor sessions with lawmakers. The Nevada Library Association hosted a lunch to share program information with legislators, staff and lobbyists.
Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, D-Las Vegas, attended the luncheon.
“Libraries are really the community’s living room,” Bilbray-Axelrod said. “Now, more than ever, you need to have that place that’s accessible to everyone. Libraries are the great equalizer.”
Tammy Westergard, assistant administrator of the Nevada State Library, Archives and Public Records, said she was pleased to see the turnout and passion.
“This library community is a tight and mighty tribe,” Westergard said. “We believe in what we do. It’s just so great to share with lawmakers what we do and how we serve.”
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles that were printed in honor of National Library Week to draw attention to the services provided by libraries across the state. The articles highlight programs in danger of being eliminated under proposed federal cuts.