This announcement follows Congress’ approval of H.R. 1473, the budget bill that will fund the government through the remaining months to September 2011, which included across-the-board cuts.
The bill included a $28 million cut to IMLS, not including the agency’s $16 million in lost earmarks that had already been eliminated. H.R. 1473 appropriated IMLS at $237.8 million for FY2011 and gave the agency up to 30 days to determine how to administer the cuts.
For FY2011 the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) will be funded at a total of $189 million, a $24.5 million cut from FY2010. The Grants to States section, which are the state population-based grants with in LSTA, was appropriated at $160 million, down $12.5 million from the FY2010 level of $172.5 million. The Laura Bush 21st Century Library Professionals program that is designed to promote professional development among librarians was cut 47.7 percent from $24.5 million in FY2010 to $12.8 million in FY2011.
These cuts were made after President Obama’s budget recommendation for FY2012 was released in February. His budget proposal recommended cuts for FY2012, but, apparently, Congress thought it best to get an early start on withdrawing support from America’s libraries. Libraries need support from the President both to set an example to governors and mayors and to prevent federal funding cuts, but this Administration has not invested its resources or political capital in our nation’s libraries.
Even more alarming is that these budget cuts were made by a Congress attempting to reduce the federal deficit by eliminating “wasteful spending.” Libraries are critical community institutions that give all members of the public — regardless of their socioeconomic background — opportunities to enrich their lives through education and to attain 21st century skills needed to be an active member of society and to thrive in the workplace. In today’s economy, libraries are ever evolving to meet the specific needs of the communities they serve, offering assistance with job searching, applying for e-government services, attaining computer skills for career development, and much more.
Libraries are already providing tremendous services under increased demands on shoestring budgets. The White House and the Congress clearly do not understand the roles of libraries in each and every community across this large nation. Taking support away from libraries has a tangible effect on the very individuals our president and members of Congress vow to serve.
If there is one bit of “hope” for libraries today, it is not coming from the White House. Instead, our hope is that there is still time to reach our Congressional leaders before the 2012 budget is finalized.
To accomplish this, we need to boost our own grassroots advocacy and enlist more participation from the public we serve. The ALA Washington Office strongly encourages libraries to launch information campaigns within their libraries and communities to educate their patrons about the lack of support for libraries in Washington and what that means for library services.
The ALA Legislative Action Center is our association’s go-to source for connecting to members of Congress and it is available for your patrons’ use in helping to contact their members of Congress and to obtain messaging assistance. Subscribe to the Action E-List for updates and action suggestions. Additionally, the Washington Office staff is always eager to assist those with individual needs or questions and to offer suggestions for targeting specific members of Congress. Please do not hesitate to call Kristin Murphy, the Washington Office’s grassroots coordinator, at 1-800-941-8478.
Emily Sheketoff, executive director
ALA Washington Office