FY22 Federal Budget Request Includes Robust Increases for Libraries, Education

On May 28, President Joe Biden released the Administration’s FY22 Budget Request to Congress. Along with major investments in infrastructure and education, the finalized $6 trillion budget—$300 billion of which is new spending requested for the coming fiscal year—requests $265 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including $197 million for the IMLS-administered Library Services and Technology Act.

U.S. Capitol exterior
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On May 28, President Joe Biden released the Administration’s FY22 Budget Request to Congress. Along with major investments in infrastructure and education, the finalized $6 trillion budget—$300 billion of which is new spending requested for the coming fiscal year—requests $265 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including $197 million for the IMLS-administered Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Other highlights from the budget request include $801 million for the Library of Congress and $28 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program, administered through the Department of Education.

Education is the big winner in this budget, with an increase of 41 percent for the Department of Education over last year, and an emphasis on leveling up funding disparities for high-poverty schools. Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, proposed at the beginning of May, includes financing for universal pre-K, a federal paid leave program, childcare support, free community college for all, and aid for students at colleges that historically serve nonwhite communities. Supporters like EveryLibrary, with its Save School Librarians campaign, are already working to make sure that funding for K–12 education reaches school libraries.

“This administration places a premium on the contributions that education and libraries are making to the [post-pandemic] recovery, to society in general, to our various communities,” Kevin Maher, deputy director of government relations for ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office, told LJ.

 

IMLS AT 25

IMLS marks its quarter century anniversary this year, and there is much to celebrate. The new budget, which represents an increase of $8 million over FY21, will provide support for a variety of critical funding; library grant programs authorized by LSTA include Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Native American and Native Hawaiian Library Services, the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, and National Leadership Grants for Libraries. Another $5 million will go to the grant program authorized by the African American History and Culture Act, with $4.5 million going to support and conduct policy research, data collection, analysis and modeling, evaluation, and dissemination of information.

The increase, said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper, will allow the agency to extend its work into areas that fall under “the larger heading of equity,” such as the focus on African American History and Culture and museum grants for American Latino History and Culture.

“Our view of that focus is to make sure that we're actually making a difference,” Kemper told LJ. “A substantial portion of this money will be spent in programmatic aspects like internships, scholarships, and fellowships—where we're actively supporting underserved and under-resourced individuals as well as communities, particularly introducing them professionally to the library and museum world.”

IMLS will also focus on grants to help libraries address digital inequities to support education, workforce development, and healthcare efforts; the importance of reading and early literacy; and the use of cultural institutions as a tool to broaden understanding and bring people together, said Kemper. “We're grateful to the administration for their ongoing support of libraries and museums.”

 

NECESSARY ADVOCACY

Although much of what is outlined in the budget request was put forward in the administration’s initial “skinny budget” in early April, ALA maintained its year-round push for advocacy and will continue to do so as the budget moves through Congress and the appropriations process is completed. Libraries were not explicitly called out in Biden’s American Jobs infrastructure plan, released in March, and ALA encourages supporters to speak up to their elected officials for the $5 billion Build America’s Libraries Act (H.R. 1581 / S. 127).

However, noted Maher, while libraries were not included as a line item in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), $200 million of the recovery package went to IMLS, and funds were also included for library-eligible programs such as the Emergency Education Connectivity Fund. “It left a lot of the details to Congress, and Congress has been very active in pushing for library infrastructure to be there,” he noted—and ongoing advocacy efforts, which include setting up virtual library tours with members of Congress, will be important to boost that signal.

“I think the pandemic has probably opened some eyes to the ways that libraries are contributing to public communities, as well as school communities,” said Maher. “We've done these tours and virtual meetings to bring that message home so that members of Congress see all the ways that libraries have been impacted by the pandemic but are also helping lead in the recovery.”

Library workers, leaders, and supporters are encouraged to visit ALA’s Take Action Center. “We'll be working as Congress puts the appropriations bills together over the course of the summer and into the fall,” Maher told LJ, particularly focusing on further increases for IAL and LSTA, which are currently level funded at FY21 rates.

The new administration has shown strong support for libraries and education, said Maher, but there are still many national priorities that need to be funded from one budget. “So you can't let up and expect the change in administration is the only thing that's needed,” he said. “Continuous advocacy and building those relationships at all levels is important.”

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Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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