ALA urges deficit-reduction ‘supercommittee’ to guard resources for job seekers

The American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office today sent a letter (pdf) to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, urging the bipartisan, 12-member panel to protect federal support for our nation’s libraries in its soon-to-be-released deficit reduction package.

The committee, often referred to as the deficit-reduction “supercommittee,” was formed after the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and tasked with reducing the federal budget deficits by a total of at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. ALA asked the committee to maintain funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which was reauthorized last December. LSTA is a population-based grant to states that is administered through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and serves as the primary source of federal support for our nation’s libraries.

“We wanted to make it clear to the supercommittee that pulling funding from America’s libraries would have widespread repercussions that would undermine our nation’s economic recovery,” Emily Sheketoff, director of the ALA Washington Office said.

“While we understand the need to reign in federal spending, the ALA asserts cutting support for libraries will set back countless Americans who are turning to their libraries for education and assistance with job searching and digital literacy training.”

The ALA’s letter pointed to an Institute of Museum and Library Services study released last year, which stated that over 69 percent of U.S. residents age 14 or older have visited a public library at least once in the past 12 months. According to the study, library visits are highest among the working poor (earning 100-200 percent of federal poverty guidelines) and those with incomes more than 300 percent of the poverty guidelines. The study also stated that patrons reported using library resources and services to address a range of basic needs, including workforce development activities:

  • 30 million people used library computers and internet access for employment or career purposes;
  • Among the employment users, 76 percent used a library’s computers or Internet connection specifically for their search for job opportunities;
  • 68 percent of the users who searched for a job submitted an application online; and
  • 46 percent of the employment users used library computers to work on their resumes.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction plans to release its package in late November.

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