For a third straight year, the Trump administration has proposed the permanent elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and with it virtually all federal library funding.
The president’s FY2020 proposal, dubbed "A Budget for a Better America" was officially released on Monday, March 11, and is reportedly the largest federal budget ever proposed, with some $4.7 trillion in proposed spending, including a $34 billion increase for the Department of Defense, and $8.6 billion for a border wall. And despite promises not to touch social programs, the Trump budget calls for cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
On Trump’s watch, the federal deficit has now eclipsed $1 trillion, and last month, officials said the U.S. national debt exceeded $22 trillion.
"Not only does the administration’s new budget dismiss the value of IMLS, it reduces funding for many other worthwhile programs, including resources for children,” said ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo in a statement. “Cutting federal support for programs like the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) comes at the cost of early literacy, often in the most underserved areas of our nation. In addition, the White House budget proposal undermines public education for all students, penalizes librarians striving to improve their professional skills, and makes careers in public service out of reach for many."
But while ALA officials are disappointed, they are hardly surprised, and vowed to continue to work with Congress to ensure library funding continues.
“As discouraging as it is that the administration has again proposed eliminating the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the bipartisan support in Congress over the past two years gives us reason to hope,” Garcia-Febo said. “Elected decision-makers, including appropriators in both the House and Senate, agree that funding IMLS programs such as the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is a sound investment and that to cut funding for libraries is to undercut opportunity for their constituents.”
In spite of Trump’s previous budget proposals, library funding has actually increased slightly over the last two budgets. In addition, Trump last year signed off on reauthorizing the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). IMLS funding in FY2019 came to roughly $242 million, up from $231 million two years ago.
"ALA members will continue to highlight the value of libraries to our elected leaders in every U.S. congressional district,” Garcia-Febo said. “We are confident that the 116th Congress will support the federal programs that invest in our communities."
UPDATE: In an article on the ALA's American Libraries web site, ALA Washington Office Director Kathi Kromer urged library advocates to contact their local representatives, asking them to show their support for federal funding for libraries by co-signing a “Dear Appropriator” letter. The deadline for signatures is March 28.
Appropriator letters are an important tool, ALA officials explain, as they let legislators know which issues have strong support among their peers—and therefore what programs must be funded when budget negotiations heat up.
"The FY2020 LSTA Dear Appropriator letter, led by US Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), calls on Congress to provide at least $206 million for LSTA. The IAL Dear Appropriator letter, led by US Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Young, calls on Congress to provide at least $27 million for IAL. Companion letters in the Senate will be released in the coming weeks," Kromer reports. "The more signatures ALA gets on these letters, the more likely it is that funding for LSTA and IAL will be restored."