The Biden Administration on March 28 released its blueprint for the 2023 federal budget, which includes a modest $8.8 million increase for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including $3.6 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) over the FY2022 budget. But in a surprise, the FY2023 proposal also includes a $1 million decrease for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program administered through the Department of Education.
If enacted, the Biden Administration’s 2023 budget recommendation raise LSTA to just over $201 million and reduce IAL to $28 million. However, the house last summer had approved a $9 million increase that would have taken LSTA funding—the primary source of federal funding for public libraries—to $206.5 million. That increase was stripped out by the Senate and signed to law last month with only flat funding of $197.4 million for LSTA. Furthermore, despite the House approving a $3 million boost for IAL funding last summer, that was scaled back to a modest $1 million increase in the reconciled FY2022 bill—and Biden’s 2023 budget now proposes to take that increase back. ALA officials say IAL is the only source of federal funding dedicated to school libraries.
“Funding increases for LSTA and other library eligible line items in the federal budget are welcome, but they are not enough to maintain in-demand library services and pay library workers, who carry out those services,” said ALA president Patty Wong, in a statement, adding that the $1 million decrease for IAL is disappointing. “America’s libraries need more federal support to meet demand and withstand the cost of inflation, currently hovering above 7%.”
In a message accompanying the $5.8 trillion budget, Biden touted fiscal responsibility and a commitment to national defense. The FY2023 proposal includes roughly $773 billion for the military, a nearly 10% increase over FY2022.
A rite of spring, the White House budget proposal officially kicks off the congressional appropriations cycle each fiscal year. And this year, library advocates have their work cut out for them.
“If America is serious about fostering a love of learning, getting older adults set up for telehealth appointments, preparing a skilled workforce for well-paying jobs and supporting research and innovation, then Congress and the president must provide robust funding for libraries,” Wong added, urging library advocates "to share impact stories with their elected leaders at every level."