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Tomorrow’s vote ends one tough budget debate as FY2012 debate heats up

Everyone who has followed the news coming from Washington as Congress has wrestled over a spending agreement for FY2011 knows that the bill to be voted on tomorrow (Thursday, April 14) is the product of many behind-closed-doors deal-making and compromising dating back to February 2010. 

Under the threat of a government shutdown late last Friday night, Congress pulled together a bill that they expect to pass both chambers. 

For ALA members and library advocates who have been engaged in the battle efforts to ensure the FY’11 bill protects all programs important to the library community, the details we are hearing about this bill are disheartening.   Congress is proposing to cut $28 million from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  This would bring the IMLS total down to somewhere around $237.8 million for FY’11.  Even though we know that Congress is voting to cut funding to IMLS, it is unknown at this point where throughout IMLS these cuts will be made. 

Another federal program whose future is in limbo is the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program.  Appropriated in FY2010 at $19.1 million, this program is not listed in the text of H.R. 1473, the legislation put forth from Congress to fund the government for FY’11.  This means that Congress is giving authority to the Department of Education to determine funds for school libraries.  The Department of Education will have 30 days from the date of enactment to submit to Congress an operating plan or expenditure for school libraries. 

As dedicated grassroots advocates, our first instinct is to ask the question: What can we do now? 

No amendments are expected to be offered for H.R. 1473; therefore, the answer to that question is: Fight to maintain and even boost federal support for library programs in FY2012. 

The ALA Washington Office’s efforts to lobby for federal library programs in the FY’11 budget were greatly strengthened by ALA members’ grassroots efforts. There is no doubt that the calls, emails, meetings, and other interactions with members of Congress throughout this budget debate have made an impression on our leaders in Congress. 

FY 2011 is only the beginning of this fight.  FY 2012 is expected to be an even tougher budget battle, and the American Library Association is going to need everyone’s help in securing library funding.

Jeff Kratz
Assistant Director, OGR

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