The American Library Association this week praised President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a multi-trillion dollar proposal to modernize the nation’s aging infrastructure. But in a statement this week, ALA leaders expressed disappointment that the plan currently does not include specific funding for libraries.
"ALA welcomes President Biden’s focus on modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, including educational facilities,” ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., said in a release this week. “However, we are deeply concerned that the administration’s infrastructure plan fails to include funding for library facilities and would provide only half the level of grants for school facilities that was approved by the House last year.”
Noting that President Biden unveiled the administration’s plan this week in Pittsburgh, a short distance from the first U.S. library opened by Andrew Carnegie more than a century ago, Jefferson said that not including libraries in the administration’s plan would be a “missed opportunity,” and urged librarians to contact the White House. "Carnegie knew that libraries were as central to the infrastructure of a nation as the steel he produced," Jefferson said.
While libraries were omitted from the Biden Administration's first draft of its infrastructure bill, library supporters have reason for optimism. In her address at ALA Midwinter, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden signaled that the administration certainly understands the importance of libraries. And the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law last month, contained billions of dollars earmarked for libraries, including $200 million in pandemic relief funding to be distributed through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the largest single budget increase in the agency's history.
ALA has also applauded recent efforts by lawmakers to fund library improvement, such as the Build America’s Libraries Act (H.R.158/S.127) which would provide $5 billion to support long term improvements to public library facilities in underserved areas, and the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (S.96/H.R. 604) which would provide $100 billion in grants to modernize K-12 school facilities, including school libraries.
The Build America’s Libraries Act currently has 85 bipartisan House sponsors and 12 Senate sponsors, and is supported by 30 organizations.
ALA officials this week urged library advocates to contact their local lawmakers in support of the legislation, and the White House to urge the Biden Administration to include libraries in future drafts of its infrastructure plan.
"ALA urges Congress to include the full levels of funding provided in the Build America’s Libraries Act and the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act," Jefferson said. “It’s time to build a new generation of libraries with the tools to help all Americans, from rural and urban communities alike, to compete in the 21st century global economy.”
ALA hosts a resource on its website that provides more detail on the Build America's Library Act, including a downloadable fact sheet, and an opportunity for you to share your story on the challenges your library facilities face in order to further illustrate the need for this dedicated federal funding.