State Lawmaker Pitches $2.5M Imagination Library

Dolly Parton hugs Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly during an event celebrating the Kansas statewide expansion of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Overland Park, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Assemblywoman Karines Reyes wants to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to New York state.

Reyes recently introduced A.9652 to create the Dolly Parton’s statewide library system of New York as well as creating the Imagination Library of New York fund. The program would receive $2.5 million in state funding in its first year.

Parton started Imagination Library in 1995 in her home county in Tennessee. Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gifted nearly 200 million free books to children in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. The library is the flagship program of the Dollywood Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Each month, it sends more than 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to enrolled children from birth to age five.

Reyes wants New York to sign on as the latest state partner for the program. There are currently 18 statewide programs, according to the program’s website.

“Currently, the program partners with local 501(c) (3)s, where the foundation covers the administrative costs and provides centralized publishing and distribution networks, and the local partners coordinate advertising the program, and managing sign ups. Children then receive a book every month until age five,” Reyes wrote in her legislative justification. “This bill builds off of the great success of the Imagination Library, by creating a statewide Imagination Library program. Managed by the state librarian, with costs split equally between the state and the Foundation, this program will bring the joys of reading to thousands of children in the state.”

Reyes’ bill would allow the state librarian to allocate money from the state to qualified local entities that agree to a dollar-for-dollar match to participate in the program, though the state could waive the matching requirement in cases of financial hardship.

The state librarian would be required to coordinate with a nonprofit 501C3 organization, with the state promotion the program across the state, working to boost enrollment in the Imagination Library program, recruiting volunteers to help develop, promote and coordinate local Imagination Library programs and solicit donations, gifts and other funding to support the program.

The state librarian would also be required to submit a report to the governor and state Legislature on the program starting in 2029.


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