The budget battle is kicking up again in Washington, but this time with a note of optimism for libraries and library supporters. Last week, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to recommend level funding for libraries in FY2018, which would mean roughly $231 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), $183 million for the Library Services and Technology Act, and $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.
The vote comes after President Trump in May doubled down on his call to eliminate IMLS and virtually all federal funding for libraries, as well as a host of other vital agencies, including the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.
In a post on the ALA Washington Office’s District Dispatch newsletter, ALA president Jim Neal called the subcommittee vote “one important step in the lengthy congressional appropriations process,” but a development that nevertheless shows that “elected officials are listening to us and recognize libraries’ importance in the communities they represent.”
Since Trump first floated the elimination of financial support for libraries, supporters have been rallying to defend library funding. In early May, more than 500 librarians attended the ALA's National Library Legislative Day (NLLD), in Washington, D.C., an annual event that includes visits to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. In addition, a growing number of companies and trade associations have joined an effort to support federal library funding, via a letter to lawmakers. Such efforts appear to be effective so far: more than a third of lawmakers in the House and nearly half the Senate have signed the ALA’s “Dear Appropriator” letters supporting federal funding for libraries.
In his post, Neal and ALA leaders expressed their gratitude to House Appropriations subcommittee members and chairman Tom Cole (R-OK-4) and ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) for their support—but warned that the budget battle is far from over.
“We have not saved FY18 federal library funding yet,” Neal wrote. “Hurdles can arise at each stage of the appropriations process, which will continue into the fall. But the fact that federal library funding was not cut at this particular stage shows what can be accomplished when ALA members work together.”
The full House Appropriations Committee could vote on the budget proposal that includes libraries (Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies) as early as today.