Congress Poised to Fund Libraries, Save the NEH and NEA

The budget battle is a long way from over, but so far Congress appears not to share President Trump’s desire to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or the National Endowments for the Humanities, or the Arts.

On Wednesday, the full House Appropriations Committee voted to approve FY2018 funding for libraries. By a 28-22 margin, the committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill, which proposes roughly $231 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—including $183.6 million for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) programs, and $27 million for the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program—essentially at 2017 funding levels.

A post on the ALA Washington Office’s District Dispatch e-newsletter, said the “successful and extremely important” full Appropriations Committee vote represents another “major milestone” in the ALA’s Fight for Libraries! Campaign—but acknowledged there are hurdles still to come.

“The game is certainly not over,” ALA officials stressed, urging librarians and library supporters to keep the pressure on their local legislators. “After tens of thousands of library advocates’ emails, tweets, and calls, Congress has heard the library community’s support for IMLS, LSTA and IAL funding loudly and clearly.”

In addition to saving the IMLS, the LHHS bill includes level funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. However, it funds the Department of Education (DOE) at $66 billion—a cut of $2.4 billion from 2017, which includes the elimination of some important library-related programs, including the DOE’s Striving Readers program—which ALA officials said they would work to restore.

Meanwhile, on July 18, the House Appropriations Committee approved by a 30-21 margin the FY2018 Interior and Environment Appropriations, which includes $145 million each for the NEH and the NEA, roughly equal to FY 2017 funding levels.

The key votes come after President Trump in May doubled down on his call to eliminate IMLS and virtually all federal funding for libraries, as well as a host of other vital programs and agencies, including the NEH and the NEA. And, it comes after Congress, earlier in May, passed a belated 2017 budget that actually upped the IMLS, NEH, and NEA budgets.

The Senate is not expected to take up the funding measures until after the August recess, with the 2017 fiscal year set to end in September 30.

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