FY 2018 library funding remains uncut by House Appropriations Committee

Sign that says "committee: appropriations" where library funding is often discussedYesterday evening, the House Appropriations Committee confirmed its support for federal library funding by voting to approve the same funding levels passed by the Labor-HHS Subcommittee last week. Yesterday’s action was another significant step toward ensuring FY 2018 funding of $231 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—including $183.6 million for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) programs—and $27 million for the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. These sums equal FY 2017 levels.

In addition, as the Subcommittee did last week, the full Committee today also approved $413.9 million for the National Library of Medicine, an increase of $20 million over FY 2017. The Committee also approved appropriations for other significant funding programs in which libraries are eligible to participate. Their levels of support relative to last year are shown here (note: the chart is in thousands of dollars). The Subcommittee and full Committee made cuts to some programs, most notably the elimination of the Department of Education’s Striving Readers program. ALA will continue to work in coalition to restore these funds.

At yesterday’s full committee markup session, the Committee debated and voted on several hours of amendments covering a range of issues, none of which addressed direct library funding.

The Labor-HHS funding bill now heads to the floor for consideration by the full House and a vote, the timing of which is increasingly uncertain. House leaders had floated the possibility of voting on a compiled package of multiple appropriations bills (a.k.a., an omnibus) before the August recess. The prospects of that appear to be fading, which means consideration of the Labor-HHS funding bill approved yesterday in Committee is likely to slip to September or even later in the fall.

The Senate has not moved yet on a Labor-HHS funding measure and is expected to take this bill up after the August recess. The Senate’s shortened recess could provide it time to begin acting on funding measures, but finishing work on the Labor-HHS bill could take the Senate well into the fall. Congress must send 12 appropriations bills to the President before the October 1 start of the fiscal year to avoid a government shutdown. In the past, Congress has failed to do that and instead passed a Continuing Resolution, which is a temporary funding measure that allows the government to operate until an agreement can be reached on the appropriations bills.

Yesterday’s successful and extremely important full Appropriations Committee vote is another major milestone in ALA’s Fight for Libraries! campaign, but there are many more challenges to come.

ALA will continue to lead the fight as the FY 2018 appropriations process moves forward. After tens of thousands of library advocates’ emails, tweets, and calls, Congress has heard the library community’s support for IMLS, LSTA and IAL funding loudly and clearly. While the news is good today, the game is certainly not over and we will continue to need your help.

If you have been fighting with us, thank you! If you haven’t yet had a chance to join the fray, today would be a great day to sign up.

About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the assistant director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations.

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