Federal Budget Request Seeks to Defund IMLS, Cultural Agencies—Again

The FY19 budget request released on February 12 by the Trump administration calls for the defunding of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as a number of other programs relevant to libraries, just as it did last year.
The FY19 budget request released on February 12 by the Trump administration calls for the defunding of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as a number of other programs relevant to libraries, just as it did last year. Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for IMLS, the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant program, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as after-school programs, K–12 literacy programs, the Global Climate Change Initiative, and a range of health assistance, foreign aid, housing programs, and state grants for education, the environment, and community redevelopment. The $4.4 trillion spending plan would favor defense spending, including earmarking $18 billion for a wall on the United States–Mexico border, and a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. The announcement came three days after Congress’s final authorization of the FY18 budget—which, when first presented in early 2017, included strikingly similar cuts to the same domestic programs as are targeted in the FY19 request. Those threats to library and cultural agencies mobilized a community of supporters, including the American Library Association (ALA), library political action committee EveryLibrary, Library Journal, the then newly formed Corporate Committee for Library Investment (CCLI), and a multitude of other library organizations, policymakers, and individuals, engendering a grassroots advocacy campaign that worked throughout the spring and summer of 2017 to make library voices heard in the fight for federal funding—an effort which is already kicking back into high gear in response to the renewed challenge. “We are disappointed that for a second year, the President’s budget request did not provide funding for the continuation of IMLS activities for the next fiscal year,” IMLS director Kathryn K. Matthew said in a statement February 12. “As the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries, IMLS grants make a difference in communities of all sizes, from rural to urban, in every U.S. state and territory.”

SWIFT RESPONSE

The administration’s announcement fell in the middle of the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter meeting in Denver, and the response from libraries, organizations, and supporters—both in attendance and around the nation—was swift and decisive. ALA immediately broadcast a call to action, updating its Action Center and Fund Libraries campaign page with resources to provide and track support for both the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which funds IMLS, and IAL. Associate executive director of ALA’s Washington Office Kathi Kromer likened the situation to the movie Groundhog Day. ALA president Jim Neal said in a statement, “The administration’s FY2019 budget is out of touch with the real needs of Americans and the priorities of leaders in Congress who represent them. The president miscalculates the value of more than 120,000 libraries across America, just as he did in his FY2018 budget proposal. There is bipartisan support for libraries in Congress, where decision-makers know that to cut funding for libraries is to undercut opportunity for their constituents.” To Neal’s point, last year the final congressional budget not only restored the cuts proposed by the White House, Congress ultimately increased Federal library funding by $4 million. EveryLibrary updated its Save IMLS page as well, and outlined a series of steps supporters can take now. “If the Institute of Museum and Library Services is closed as planned, state libraries around the country will lose critical funding for services supporting the blind and visually impaired, 24/7 homework help for students, and vital programs for veterans and their families,” EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka, a 2014 LJ Mover & Shaker, said in a statement. “Voting Americans need to respond with urgency in order to build Congressional support and protect these devastating cuts from moving forward.” By the morning of February 13, more than 5,000 emails to representatives had already been sent through ALA’s website, and by February 14 nearly 3,000 had been sent through EveryLibrary. “The response has been good,” Chrastka told LJ. “It takes, like any advocacy campaign, moving people from unawareness to action. So we're focusing all of our attention right now on reaching the public, the people who use libraries, the people who know that communities are stronger because libraries are there, and campuses are stronger because libraries are there." A number of library organizations expressed their concern over the proposed budget cuts, and encouraged their members to step up. The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) offered its perspective as a leadership organization for the libraries that receive direct funding from IMLS. “With its reach into every public library in America and its intimate connections to state and local needs and issues, COSLA is unique in its understanding of the importance of federal funding in the provision of essential library services,” noted Sandra Treadway, Librarian of Virginia and COSLA president, in a statement. “Each state and territory identifies the most appropriate uses of funds from the IMLS Grants to States program, implementing services and activities to meet their communities’ unique economic, education, civic, and demographic needs. The return on investment of these federal funds is substantial and enhanced by each state’s matching contribution and local funding.” Urban Libraries Council president and CEO Susan Benton said in a statement, “With his 2019 budget, President Trump has again shown us education, digital inclusion for low income children and families, and lifelong learning have not made it to the top of his list of priorities. Just like last year, his proposed funding cuts to IMLS will do nothing to achieve a balanced budget while doing great harm to communities across the country…. Slashing this funding is counter to the values of our country which has been built on personal and professional growth through resources provided by public libraries. We call on Congress to make sure libraries can continue to serve the people who count on them.” The Society of American Archivists announced plans to partner with the National Humanities Alliance, the National Coalition for History, the Council of State Archivists, and others to issue a call to action to the archives community. Last year more than 90 national corporations joined forces to support federal library funding as CCLI, and the organization is making its collective voice heard again. In a statement released February 14 on behalf of CCLI by cofounder Gale, a Cengage company, the organization reiterated its message: “Libraries are worth the investment. Libraries and library businesses themselves spend more than $8 billion on goods and services provided by thousands of businesses. They bring leaders, experts, entrepreneurs, veterans, students and other community members together to solve difficult problems—from access to opportunity and academic success, to work-readiness and literacy. Furthermore, they launch careers, spark passions and offer countless materials, programs and services to bolster the overall health and wellness of the communities which they, and CCLI companies, serve.”

MAINTAIN MOMENTUM

Every message accompanying the press releases, information sites, and toolkits—whether from professional, political, academic, or nonprofit sources—shares the same basic point: the need to keep the advocacy momentum generated in the past year’s work for library and cultural funding. The fight was not over with the authorization of the FY18 budget, and may not be over for some time. “Withholding federal support for libraries means withholding services that foster achievement, develop the workforce and contribute to local economies,” stated Neal. “ALA members will continue to highlight the value of libraries to our elected leaders in every U.S. congressional district. And we are confident that our congressional leaders will continue to protect the federal programs that invest in our communities.” “We can all stand together with courage…to rally ourselves,” said Chrastka. “We have to take a principled stand. Otherwise we're going to get rolled." The budget next goes to Congress, where—perhaps promisingly—last year a number of Republican lawmakers rejected several of the same cuts, and many of the officials who heard the message from library supporters are now up for reelection.
Comments

Chris Rogers

Cuts to funding in President Trump's FY 2019 budget for IMLS and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) ignore every basic assumption that every American citizens' need for literacy skills, lifelong learning, political engagement, access to digital resources and the internet, and sense of community are the essential bonds that bind our Democracy together. Groundhogs, unite! Rise up and fight for all that is great in our country because of the power and presence of public and school libraries.

Posted : Feb 21, 2018 01:44


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