Library advocates this week praised the final 2021 omnibus spending bill for including a $5 million increase for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), taking the agency’s annual budget to $257 million. The 2021 budget, now on President Trump's desk, marks the eighth straight year of increases for IMLS, the last four years of which included proposals by the Trump Administration to permanently eliminate the agency and with it virtually all federal library funding.
In a statement, ALA president Julius C. Jefferson said librarians welcomed the increase, and noted that despite Trump's proposals to eliminate the IMLS, Congress has increased the agency's funding by $26 million over the last four years.
“There is an increasing awareness among decision-makers that libraries are an indispensable strand in a tattered digital safety net," Jefferson said. "Tens of thousands of advocates, including library workers, Friends, Trustees and State Librarians, have contacted their federal leaders since March to urge support for library funding.”
In addition to a boost for IMLS, the FY 2021 appropriations bill also includes increases for other programs important to libraries, including a one million boost for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program; a $32 million increase for the Library of Congress; nearly $6 million more for the National Library of Medicine; and an $18 million increase for the National Archives and Records Administration.
Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts are also slated for a $5.25 million increase in funding over last year. Like IMLS, the Trump administration had also proposed the elimination of both agencies over the last four years.
Libraries did not do quite as well in the Covid-19 relief package included in the massive bill finalized this week. Congress did not include the Library Stabilization Fund Act, introduced in July; or the Build America’s Libraries Act, introduced in December; and Congress declined to offer more direct help to libraries for broadband access, although ALA officials say the bill does include some library-eligible broadband measures.
“ALA has already begun to engage with the 117th Congress to ensure the current political favor translates into direct support for library workers and library stabilization as America continues to recover from the pandemic,” Jefferson added, thanking library supporters for their hard work in a historically challenging year. “This is a time to take a deep breath, be proud of our hard work and grateful for our wins this year. We’ll need energy to build upon our gains in the new Congress.”
Meanwhile, after months of relative silence as the bill was being hammered out, President Trump is now threatening to veto the must-pass legislation, calling for higher payments to individuals for Covid-19 relief and blasting funding for other programs. But despite the president's threats and an expected effort by Democrats to boost the amount of direct relief payments to citizens, observers expect the bill will eventually pass.