For a fourth straight year, the Trump administration has once again proposed the permanent elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and with it virtually all federal funding for libraries.
The Trump Administration's $4.875 trillion fiscal year 2021 budget blueprint, dubbed "A Budget for America's Future," proposes to boost defense, Veterans Affairs, and NASA, with steep proposed cuts to social programs including Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the State Department, foreign aid, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal also lays out a path, including a sequestration order, to trim the annual budget deficit, which has exploded under the Trump Administration and is projected to top $1 trillion for FY2020.
In a statement, IMLS officials confirmed the Trump Administration will once again propose the elimination of the agency, with $23 million reportedly proposed in the 2021 budget proposal to wind the agency down.
Also for the fourth straight year, the Trump administration has proposed the elimination the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. "The White House has requested that Congress appropriate $33.4 million to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the orderly closure of the agency," reads a statement on the NEH web site, although NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede said the agency is "continuing normal operations and will announce our latest round of FY2020 awards this spring.”
The good news for library supporters: for the last three years, the library community has not only successfully countered the administration's proposal to axe the IMLS—the agency through which most federal library funding is distributed in the form of grants to states— but IMLS has actually seen increases in each of the last three years. The FY2020 budget, which Trump signed in January, included a $10 million increase to the IMLS budget, including $6.2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the largest increase in LSTA funding in over a decade.
"ALA takes the White House proposal seriously," ALA president Wanda Brown said in a statement. "After three years of consistent pushback from library advocates and Congress itself, the administration still has not gotten the message: eliminating federal funding for libraries is to forego opportunities to serve veterans, upskill underemployed Americans, start and grow small businesses, teach our kids to read, and give greater access to people with print disabilities in our communities."
The latest bid to shutter the IMLS comes just weeks after the library community praised the Trump administration's choice of Kansas City, Mo., Public Library executive director R. Crosby Kemper III to be the next IMLS director. Kemper was easily confirmed by the Senate in January, and has now succeeded Kathryn Matthew, whose four-year term ended in 2019. On the IMLS web site, Kemper said IMLS will "continue to engage in the budget process" with the administration and, for the remainder of FY2020, IMLS "will continue our work investing in libraries and museums—those anchors in our communities—and helping millions across the nation tell their American stories.”
As the last three years have illustrated, the president's annual budget proposal is largely a political document. But ALA officials insist that the funding increases in recent years are the result of the library community's strong grassroots interactions with Congress, and have consistently warned librarians not to take Trump's budget proposals lightly.
"The administration’s budget proposal is their ideal budget, and we should never discount that," ALA's Kathi Kromer told PW in an interview last July. "I think one of the reasons we have seen such a strong rebuttal to the president from Congress on library funding is because our advocates have taken the administration’s proposals seriously, and they’ve made it a point to remind their elected officials of the importance of libraries in their community."
ALA officials say the plan is to maintain those strong advocacy efforts in the face of Trump's latest proposal.
"ALA will continue our strategic approach to advocacy, rallying the growing number of library advocates to take action at each step of the appropriations process and to cultivate ongoing relationships with decision makers," says Brown. "ALA encourages everyone—library workers and library lovers alike—to email their members of Congress today and urge them to protect library funding in FY 2021.