Months of advocacy by ALA members across the country has produced the first positive results for fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding as the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee voted today to provide level funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) at $240 million. Funding levels for individual programs like the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) will be confirmed next week when the Subcommittee releases its accompanying report.
Federal funding for libraries has been in doubt following the administration’s recommendation to eliminate IMLS along with a number of education programs. Another concern was that the House provided lower funding levels than the Senate for the full LHHS bill, choosing to give larger increases for non-education programs (defense, opioid treatment, National Institutes of Health, etc.).
The funding bill now heads to the full House Appropriations Committee, which could mark up its bill as early as next week. While changes in program funding levels typically do not occur at the full committee level, House floor action is uncertain.
The House bill includes modest increases or level funding for a number of other education-related items that may also benefit libraries. Title IV Part A (funding for well-rounded education and technology) is increased $100 million. Career and Technical Education increased $115 million. The National Library of Medicine is up $5 million. National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts are both up $2 million (included in the Interior Subcommittee bill).
Today’s House LHHS Subcommittee vote is evidence that ALA members continue to have a significant impact on federal funding priorities. From participating in (virtual) National Library Legislative Day to calling on members of Congress to sign Dear Appropriator letters, ALA members have made it clear to their representatives that funding for our nation’s libraries makes their congressional districts stronger.
The funding levels in the House Subcommittee bill should encourage us – and remind us that the most impactful advocacy comes from year-round engagement with the elected leaders who make decisions about issues that library professionals and the people we serve.
If you have emailed your member of Congress, make a phone call. If you have called, write a letter to the editor. Most of all, invite your representative or senator to visit your library – just like Great River (Okla.) Regional Library did last month– to show them the difference your library makes in the lives of your users, their constituents.
The Senate LHHS Subcommittee will begin consideration of its bill on June 26. We in ALA’s public policy office in Washington, D.C., will continue to provide you the latest information about federal funding as well as important policy issues at times when your advocacy will have the most impact.