Federal Funding Sources

On occasion, federal grants for specific programs become available for libraries. Trustees and directors can learn about these and other grant opportunities through library literature.

Two of the most common sources of federal funds for library services in Montana are the Library Services and Technology Act and the Telecommunications Discount Program (E-Rate).

Library Services and Technology Act

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant program is designed to serve all types of libraries: public, academic, research, school, special and consortia libraries. Administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, LSTA provides annual funding to all state library agencies to "develop library networks to share library information resources across institutional, local and state boundaries and to reach those for whom library use requires extra effort or special materials."

The act also authorizes a national grant competition for education and training, research and demonstration, preservation and digitization, and models of cooperation between libraries and museums. In addition, IMLS provides grants to improve Native American and Native Hawaiian library services.

In Montana, the State Library Commission administers LSTA grant funds. The amount of money received each year varies, depending on the funding LSTA receives in each federal budget. The funds awarded to Montana are used for State Library programs, such as the Talking Book Library and the Library Development Division, or for statewide projects that provide specialized programming or services for Montanans.

Telecommunications Discount Program (E-Rate)

Since 1997, the federal Telecommunications Discount Program has provided Montana libraries discounts on eligible telecommunications services ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent, depending on economic need and location. Commonly referred to as the "E-Rate program," it is administered through the nonprofit Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which was established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Schools and Libraries Division of USAC administers the schools and libraries program.

The determination of economic need is based upon the percentage of students eligible for participation in the national school lunch program. Libraries use a weighted discount percentage, which includes figures for all of the schools in the school district in which the library is located.

Services covered by E-Rate range from basic local and long-distance phone services to Internet access services. Acquisition and installation of equipment to provide networked access to these services are also covered. To apply for E-Rate discounts, a library must meet the Montana Public Library Standards. There are also federal requirements that must be met depending upon the type of discount the library requests.