February 04, 2021

Wyden Supports $5 Billion Library Modernization and Investment Plan to Connect More Americans to Opportunities for Advancement

Senator: “As the son of a librarian, I understand just how deeply rooted libraries are in the success of communities in Oregon and nationwide"

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today announced his support for legislation to invest $5 billion nationwide to build and modernize public libraries to better serve local communities, boost economic development and connect more families to opportunities for advancement in Oregon and across the country.

Wyden was joined by U.S. Senators Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in introducing the Build America’s Libraries Act. This legislation would provide $5 billion over three years to build and modernize public libraries, including addressing needs that have arisen due to COVID–19, to enable libraries to better serve and engage their communities, particularly in underserved areas. These federal funds could be used to help construct new libraries, build additions, improve accessibility, update technology and broadband infrastructure, enhance energy efficiency standards, and renovate and modernize facilities to better meet the evolving learning and information needs of the public.

“As the son of a librarian, I understand just how deeply rooted libraries are in the success of communities in Oregon and nationwide," Wyden said. "Many families without reliable access to internet at home depend on their neighborhood library for a safe space to finish school assignments, fill out job applications and stay connected. Literacy and civics programming help students and people of all walks of life get ahead. Between years of inadequate federal investment and COVID-19, local library systems have been hit with an economic wrecking ball. It’s long past time Congress helped modernize local libraries and invest in communities in Oregon and around the country, and this legislation will do just that.”

For thirty years, the federal government invested in the physical infrastructure of libraries nationwide, but abandoned that federal program in the early 1990s. The intervening years have taken their toll on library facilities. The average library building is now more than 40 years old and many need large-scale improvements and modernization. On top of this longstanding underinvestment, the pandemic has forced libraries to adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs of their communities despite limited financial resources.

The American Library Association (ALA) projects billions of dollars in losses to libraries over the course of the pandemic, at a time when reliance on libraries from low-income, underserved and Tribal communities is increasing.

The Build America’s Libraries Act is supported by numerous organizations, including: the American Library Association (ALA); American Indian Library Association; American Institute of Architects; American Society of Interior Designers, Association for Rural & Small Libraries; Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums; Chief Officers of State Library Agencies; Council of State Archivists; Education Market Association; International WELL Building Institute; National Coalition for History; National Coalition for Literacy; National Digital Inclusion Alliance; National Summer Learning Association; Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition; and Urban Libraries Council.

A copy of the bill text is here.