What is the Grants to States program?
The Grants to States program is the largest source of federal funding support for library services in the U.S. Using a population based formula, more than $150 million is distributed among the State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAAs) every year. SLAAs are official agencies charged by law with the extension and development of library services, and they are located in:
- Each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia;
- The Territories (Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands); and
- The Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands).
What do the funds support?
Each year, over 1,500 Grants to States projects support the purposes and priorities outlined in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). SLAAs may use the funds to support statewide initiatives and services, and they may also distribute the funds through competitive subawards to, or cooperative agreements with, public, academic, research, school, or special libraries or consortia (for-profit and federal libraries are not eligible).
States and subrecipients have partnered with community organizations to provide a variety of services and programs, including access to electronic databases, computer instruction, homework centers, summer reading programs, digitization of special collections, access to e-books and adaptive technology, bookmobile service, and development of outreach programs to the underserved. To find out more about how funds are used in your state, visit your state profile page.
Who does the program serve?
Grants to States funds have been used to meet the needs of children, parents, teenagers, adult learners, senior citizens, the unemployed, and the business community. One of the program’s statutory priorities is to address underserved communities and persons having difficulty using a library, and approximately ten percent of grant funds in recent years have supported library services for the blind and physically handicapped. The program also meets the needs of the current and future library workforce.
How are funds allocated?
The Grants to States program allocates a base amount to each of the SLAAs plus a supplemental amount based on population. For each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, the base amount is $680,000 each, and for the U.S. Territories the base amount is $60,000 each. You can see recent allotments for all the states here.
How is the program evaluated?
The Library Services and Technology Act requires each SLAA to submit a plan that details library services goals for a five-year period. SLAAs must also conduct a five-year evaluation of library services based on that plan. These plans and evaluations are the foundation for improving practice and informing policy. View all the states’ five-year plans and five-year evaluations for library services.
To strengthen the impact of the federal investment in the Grants to States program, IMLS and SLAAs are partnering in a comprehensive planning and evaluation initiative called Measuring Success. This multi-year effort will fundamentally shift the way in which Grants to States program information is gathered and shared, improve program evaluation and reporting, and highlight evidence-based best practices.
When did the program begin? How has it changed over the years?
For more than 50 years, the Library Services and Technology Act Grants to States program and its predecessor programs have supported the delivery of library services in the U.S. Although the legislation has undergone numerous reauthorizations, the basic function of the program, which merges federal priorities with state-defined needs, continues to this day. Legislative highlights include:
- 1956: Congress passed the Library Services Act (LSA), authorizing $7.5 million annually for 5 years for the extension and improvement of public library service in rural areas.
- 1962: LSA was reauthorized as the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA), removing restrictions that limited funding to rural libraries and adding Title II, which contained funds for remodeling or construction of library buildings.
- 1996: Congress shifted LSCA to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as Subchapter II of the Museum and Library Services Act, ending federal funding for library construction and replacing it with a focus on new information technologies.
For more recent activity, see the IMLS legislative timeline.