Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Value of Librarianship in 2017

Normally, I'd be posting this over in my political blog. This is getting posted here because it involves my library profession.

There's been a lot of worried emails in my Inbox from fellow librarians about this.

The recently released annual budget from trump's White House is one of drastic cuts to nearly every aspect of the federal budget (except for the Defense). In particular, he's calling for outright elimination of funds for 19 agencies.

One of which is the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Its ongoing mission is to explore new worlds and seek out new civilizations to "inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. We provide leadership through research, policy development, and grant making."

It's not as high profile as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting AKA PBS, the home of Mister Rogers, Big Bird, Masterpiece Theater and Antiques Roadshow. And it's not an immediate threat to most libraries: your public libraries get most of our funding from city, county, and state taxes/revenues. But this potential shutdown hits us hard: A lot of grants towards library projects are at stake.

Eliminating this grant provider could force many small county and city museums to close their doors. Places of historic, artistic and scientific value no longer available to the public. Special collections at libraries - also historic, artistic and scientific - no longer available as well. Things that require preservation can fade away, lost forever.

These cuts would be a disaster: not JUST for museums and libraries but for the nation.

The American Library Association President Judie Todaro issued strong words against this:

The President’s proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services in his FY2018 budget just released, and with it effectively all federal funding for libraries of all kinds, is counterproductive and short-sighted. The American Library Association will mobilize its members, congressional library champions, and the millions upon millions of people we serve in every zip code to keep those ill-advised proposed cuts from becoming a congressional reality. Libraries leverage the tiny amount of federal funds they receive through their states into an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere to produce what could well be the highest economic and social ‘ROI’ in the entire federal budget.
America’s more than 120,000 public, school, college and university, and many other libraries aren’t piles of archived books. They’re trusted centers for technology, job counseling, retraining, veterans services, entrepreneurship, education, teaching and learning, and free inquiry at the core of communities in every state in the country—and in every congressional district. And they’re staffed by the original search engines: skilled and engaged librarians.”

I know personally how well-liked and well-used libraries are: Nearly every time I've seen - especially first-hand in Broward County back in the 1990s - a funding matter come up for library support, a vast majority of residents vote in FAVOR OF better funding, improving services, building MORE branches to serve the public.

This proposed budget goes against everything I've seen out of my fellow Americans when it comes to libraries (and museums). WE know the value of this shared community resource. WE need to fight back and call Congress to tell them to save the IMLS, and to save our communities by protecting EVERY public service - my God, they're slashing MEALS ON WHEELS? - trump threatens today.

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