Supporting Tribal Libraries

I compete on the forensics team at my university. For those unfamiliar, forensics is basically competitive public speaking featuring prepared speeches, limited preparation events, and literature interpretation. There are 11 events and over the past three years I’ve competed in 9 of them. This year, I qualified 5 events for the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament, and the Kansas State University team placed 10th in the nation. I love forensics, because I love having a voice about the things that matter to me (the captive audience doesn’t hurt either).

This year, many of my events were about things that I am particularly passionate about  My persuasive speech was about tribal libraries, and I did a ton of research to try to condense problems, effects, and solutions into 10 minutes to present. This speech was inspired by the same class that this blog was a project for, because of that, I wanted to share my speech in a post format as well as pass along resources so you can support tribal libraries now and in the future.

I acknowledged this in my speech, and I want to acknowledge it here as well. I’m not Native American, but I do want to be a librarian. We need to remember that the land this country was built upon wasn’t ours, so proper access to information shouldn’t be solely ours either.


Because I was limited to 10 minutes, I chose to focus on two problems. A lack of high-speed internet, and a need for culturally relevant materials.

First, tribal libraries need high-speed internet because many Native American families don’t have home internet access so their local library may be the only place where access is available. The FCC noted in 2016 that there is nowhere that the digital divide cuts deeper than it does in Indian Country.

Second, the Associate for Tribal Archives Libraries and Museums indicates in their 2014 Sustaining Indigenous Cultures report that 93% of tribal libraries say that materials specific to their tribe’s culture is a high priority collection development need. Tribal libraries need to have collections that accurately represent the population they’re serving.


The next step of my speech was to draw effects of the problems that I explored. The role of the library is being undercut and Native Nations are being left behind.

The Brookings Institute on March 30, 2017 explains that libraries are vital to building healthy communities. However, the 2017 Rural Libraries in the United States Report explains that rural libraries struggle the most to meet patron needs and cultural challenges, which can affect the role they play in their communities. When tribal libraries can’t meet these conditions their role in their communities may be being undercut even though they’re crucial. (I use research that explores rural libraries rather than tribal libraries here because this specific research isn’t available for tribal libraries, and many tribal libraries are in rural areas meaning they fall under this report as well).

Second, the information age is leaving Native Nations behind in a way that disproportionately effects youth. The Nation on July 24, 2017 explains that Native Youth are faced with low literacy rates and high dropout rates. The American Library Association explains youth programming at libraries can make a world of difference in supplementing achievement and literacy rates, but tribal libraries often lack the resources to provide these opportunities.


Because I chose two problems, of course I’ve got two solutions to try to tie everything up nicely (even though that works better in speeches than it does in the real life).

My first solution directly tackles the issue of high-speed Internet access at tribal libraries. This solution comes legislatively through the Tribal Connect Act, introduced in the senate in December of 2017 by Martin Heinrich and Dean Heller and a similar measure was introduced in the House in April of 2018. The act would give tribal libraries access to high-speed internet by connecting them with the FCC’s school and libraries program to get them the access they need as quickly as possible. The act is currently in committee, if your senator sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee or your representative on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, please consider giving them a call to voice your support.

Second, on a personal level, donate. Be it time, materials, or money. I’ve included a link to a google doc, that can also be reached through the snap code set as the featured image for the post and included below as well which contains resources about donating and supporting the tribal connect act as well as other ways to support tribal libraries.




I spent a lot of time this spring semester researching and advocating for tribal libraries, so thank you for taking the time for reading this post and I hope you’ll consider supporting tribal libraries now and in the future. As always feel free to contact me with any comments, concerns, etc…

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