Week Twelve: Friends of the Library

One of the plethora of items on the chopping block on the current administration’s “America First” budget is funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This federal funding, in combination with other federal arts and humanities funding, makes up far less than 1% of our nation’s budget — yet IMLS funding is able to support a wide range of services in public libraries throughout the country. Examples of these worthy services include summer reading programs, helping veterans transition to civilian life, resources for blind patrons, as well as job skills and computer coding courses. You can show your support for our public learning spaces by using the #SaveIMLS hashtag on social media to advocate for sparing federal funding for our nation’s libraries.

This week we donated to the Friends of the Castro Valley Library in our town. There are nonprofit, membership-based Friends of the Library chapters in many communities, large and small, throughout the country. You may already be involved with the chapter where you live. Friends of the Castro Valley Library raises funds for public library services and advocates at local, state, and national levels for public support of libraries. They keep an inventory of over 2,500 books and other media which they regularly turn over, donating additional books to deserving organizations throughout Alameda County.

Both of us have fond memories of visiting libraries as children, and we continue to do so today. Libraries are a foundation of learning, providing free and equal access to education. If knowledge is power, then libraries are a cornerstone of empowerment. As Henry Ward Beecher said, “A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.” Our local library is a hub of our town, where people come together to learn from one another, take part in community programs, spend time together as a family, and more. Libraries are community treasures!


Week Eleven: Coral Reef Alliance

The current administration has proposed massive budget cuts to marine programs. The 17% cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) include the elimination of the Sea Grant program, which distributes federal funds to states with oceanfronts and along the Great Lakes. This includes Hawaii, which has coral reefs stretching 1,200 miles that make up 85% of the U.S.’ reefs. Coral are living organisms which are very sensitive to temperature changes. Climate change is increasing ocean temperatures, leading to widespread coral bleaching — a condition that causes the organisms to turn white and become more susceptible to disease. In addition, increased carbon dioxide from cars and other human sources is dissolving in oceans, creating ocean acidification. Even small decreases in ocean pH hampers coral’s ability to absorb the calcium carbonate they need to maintain their skeletons and survive. Various studies have calculated that the world has lost one fifth to one half of its coral reefs since the early 80’s. Here’s a petition to save the Sea Grant program.

This week, we donated to Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, CA with a global reach. CORAL protects and restores coral reefs in partnership with the communities that live near them. CORAL develops custom solutions for each community, focusing on sustainable development and tourism, reef management and education, the reduction of overfishing, and helping communities benefit financially from conservation. For example, in 2016 in Roatan, Honduras, CORAL improved water quality by connecting 188 homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment facility and treating 82 million gallons of sewage and wastewater. CORAL’s work benefits coral reefs and surrounding communities in Hawaii, Mexico, Honduras, Fiji, and Indonesia.

We believe that the work done by CORAL is so important because healthy coral reefs are a crucial part of a healthy planet. Not only do coral reefs contain incredibly diverse ecosystems and provide habitats and shelter for many marine animals, they also protect our coastlines from the damaging effects of tropical storms and surge water. In addition to this, coral reefs are such a stunning and special part of our environment! We loved our experiences snorkeling around coral reefs in Hawaii, reveling in the beauty of the fish and sea creatures we saw there. We can’t imagine our world without coral reefs, and we need to do everything we can to help protect them.

Week Ten: Legal Services Corporation

The current administration’s proposed budget released on March 16th eliminates federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The LSC serves a similar role in civil cases as public defenders serve in criminal cases. The 6th Amendment requires public-defender systems to exist, but there is no constitutional mandate for civil legal-aid programs. LSC helps Americans with troubles including domestic violence, housing and foreclosure, and predatory financial practices such as debt traps.

So this week, we donated to LSC, which is a nonprofit organization that receives federal funding. Since 1974, LSC has promoted equal access to justice and provided grants for high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans making at or below $14,713 for an individual or $30,313 for a family of four. LSC-funded programs help about 2 million people per year, but demand far outpaces supply — evidenced by legal aid offices needing to turn away 50% of those seeking help. In 2015 alone, out of 62.5 million eligible Americans (based on income), LSC was able to handle 755,774 cases including 116,074 domestic violence cases.

Even though there is no constitutional mandate for civil legal-aid programs, we believe that access to legal aid is a basic right that every American deserves — for civil cases as well as criminal cases. Can you imagine trying to handle a court case on your own, without being able to afford legal help? Without equal access to legal representation, the principals of justice and freedom that our democracy is built upon will begin to erode. That is why Legal Services Corporation is so vital to our nation, and why this organization needs our support to continue their important work even if their federal funding is eliminated.