While Presidents submit their proposed Federal budgets each year, the “power of the purse” – the authority to appropriate money – rests with Congress, and most Presidents’ budgets are more or less ignored, except as a blueprint for that particular administration’s or the party’s agenda.
The Stiletto Gumshoe is more or less a politics-free zone, however passionate my own positions may be (and what they are…well, we won’t get into that here, unless they’ve peeked through unintentionally in prior posts). Nonetheless…
For each year of this current administration, the President’s proposed budget called for the complete elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funds research and provides grants to museums and libraries. The IMLS is the primary source of federal funding to public libraries. Not their primary source of funding, mind you, which typically will be local property taxes, but the primary source of federal funding. Also, the proposed 2021 budget – “A Budget For America’s Future” – calls for the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (the NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (the NEA).
I have my points of view and you’ll have yours about erecting walls, detention camps, cozying up with dictators, billing taxpayers for resort stays, launching a Satellite Sam space force, gutting or cutting Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S.D.A., the State Department and…well, you get my point. And I’m sure there are political persuasions that will rail against the NEH and NEA as promoters of particular ideologies they vehemently oppose. (Or choose not to understand.) So, let’s just agree to disagree.
But it’s pretty hard to argue against public libraries.
I whine about my own local library often, a lovely and well-appointed facility that unfortunately is woefully short of actual books. But complaining doesn’t mean you won’t find me in there every week or so, and leaving with books in hand.
Despite the repeated attempts to defund or eliminate the IMLS, NEH and NEA altogether, Congress has not only re-appropriated funds in each of the past years, it has actually increased funding. Sincere support or pandering, who knows?
Whether you come up a few bucks shy on your next bookstore visit, or faint when you see the online bookseller charges on your credit card statement, or routinely take advantage of your local library like me, consider popping over to the American Library Association site at www.ala.org for a handy link to reach out to your own congressional representative to voice your concern about where your tax dollars go. Or, where they don’t go. I mean, we’re talking about your local public library, for goodness sakes.
John Warner’s 2.10.20 Biblioracle column in the Chicago Tribune, “Libraries Most Popular Attraction, And For Good Reason” (link below) references a December 2019 Gallup Poll of Americans’ most common cultural activities. Surprise: Going to the library topped the list, coming in at nearly double the rate of going to the movies, and way more than attending sporting events, zoos, casinos, concerts, etc., used most frequently by lower income households and, surprisingly, shows the highest use by the 18 – 29 year old demo (and incidentally, highest regional use in the Midwest…go Flatlanders!) Warner’s column concludes with a simple message: “We don’t want a world without libraries”.
Amen to that, brother.
(Photo: By Jessica Castro, via Unsplash)