Tribal Libraries


The FCC amended the E-Rate program rules in 2022 to include Tribal library in the definition of library in the Tribal Library Order (FCC 22-8), and to clarify that Tribal libraries are by statute eligible for support from State library administrative agencies under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and therefore, are eligible for support from the E-Rate program. 47 U.S.C. §§ 54.500 and 54.501(b)(1). In 2023, the FCC took further steps in the Tribal Order (FCC 23-56) to encourage Tribal library participation in the E-Rate program. Specifically, the FCC extended eligibility to Tribal College or University (TCU) libraries under certain circumstances, increased the Category Two (C2) budget floor, and increased the C2 highest discount rate from 85% to 90%.

Tribal libraries should be able to demonstrate three basic characteristics of a library:

  • regularly scheduled hours,
  • staff, and
  • materials available for library users.

Any Tribal library that is eligible for LSTA funding under the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 and has not been validated in the E-Rate program should be prepared to demonstrate their eligibility by providing:

  • Documentation from an authorizing Tribal government entity (such as a charter or ordinance or letter from the Tribal Council), as well as documentation that shows that the applicant has characteristics of a library, including regular hours, staff, and materials, or
  • A signed letter from a state library agency. Please note: A signed letter from a state library agency can only be used to establish status as a library and cannot be used to establish Tribal status.

Except for the case of a TCU library serving as a public library, as explained below, only libraries whose budgets are completely separate from any schools, including but not limited to elementary and secondary school, colleges, and universities shall be eligible for E-Rate support.

Libraries operating as for-profit businesses are not eligible for E-Rate support.

Tribal College and University Libraries

A library affiliated with a Tribal College or University (TCU) is eligible for E-Rate funding if it also serves as a public library by having dedicated library staff, regular hours, and a collection available for public use in its community.

Equipment and services supporting the TCU library’s needs are eligible for E-Rate support. However, the broader connectivity requirements of the higher education institution are not eligible for E-Rate funding. Cost allocation is required for TCU libraries where the requests for equipment or services are shared with the non-library buildings of the TCU.

When applying for Category Two (C2) discounts, TCU libraries shall provide the total area for all floors, in square feet, of all areas enclosed by the outer walls of the library outlet and occupied by the library, including those areas which are off-limits to the public.

Tribal Library-Specific Category Two Rules

Equipment and services eligible for E-Rate program discounts are divided into Category One (C1) and Category Two (C2). Each independent school, school district, library or library system receiving C2 funding has a five-year, pre-discount budget for those equipment and services based on the number of students in the school district or the number of square feet in the library system. There is no budget for C1 services. For detail, please visit the Category Two Budget page. [link].

In FCC 23-56, the FCC created two rules, specific to Tribal libraries.

  • C2 Tribal Library Funding Floor. First, the FCC set the C2 funding floor for Tribal libraries at $55,000. Tribal libraries with less than 12,223 square feet are entitled to request discounts on up to a pre-discount C2 budget of $55,000 over a five-year funding cycle.
  • C2 Tribal Library Discount Rate. Second, the FCC increased the highest discount rate available for C2 funding requests from 85% to 90% for Tribal libraries. See the discount matrix.

Definition of Tribal

To qualify for these Tribal Library-Specific C2 funding floor and discount rate, the Tribal library must be “operated by any Tribe, Band, Nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska native village, regional corporation, or village corporation (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.)) that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians” (47 CFR 54.500).

A Tribal government entity can designate a library as a Tribal Library by a Tribal Resolution or similar document.

For more details on how to get started in the E-Rate program if you are a Tribal library new to E-Rate, these resources are available: Tribal Nation News, E-Rate Program At-A-Glance and Tribal Training page.