On March 16, 2017, President Donald Trump released his 2018 Budget Blueprint to Congress, a proposal that includes the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS is the federal agency that administers the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which provides critical funding to the nation’s libraries and state library agencies.
The Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) receives funding through the LSTA-specified Grants to States program. In fiscal year 2017, OLIS received $1,074,974, which funds programs that benefit all Rhode Islanders. LSTA funds support Talking Books Plus (RI’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped), the statewide summer reading program for children and teens, and online electronic resources on AskRI, including language learning tools and test preparation resources for professional, citizenship, high school equivalency and college entrance tests. LSTA also funds statewide programming developed by OLIS to support workforce development efforts at libraries and to train librarians, as well as supporting librarians in the development of programming for children, teens, adults and seniors.
“IMLS funding expands the services that OLIS provides to every city and town in Rhode Island,” said Karen Mellor, OLIS Chief of Library Services. “From the children’s summer reading program at public libraries, to online job skills development tools for adults, to library services for seniors who are no longer able to read print because of failing eyesight, federal dollars support OLIS programming that touches young and old alike.”
Institute of Museum and Library Services grants are also awarded directly to libraries. The Providence Public Library and the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies are each currently conducting projects funded through National Leadership Grants that collectively total over one million dollars. These projects focus on workforce development for young adults and digital literacy initiatives in libraries and schools. The Providence Community Library recently concluded a $250,000 project funded by IMLS designed to reduce the achievement gap for children entering kindergarten who have not been able to participate in early formal learning programs.
IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew stated in a press release that IMLS will continue to work closely with the federal Office of Management and Budget as the budget is developed, stating that the agency “will remain steadfast in our work on behalf of the millions of Americans touched by the services of libraries and museums each day.”
Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, lead sponsor of the bill to reauthorize LSTA, has expressed his opposition to the President’s budget and the effort to eliminate the IMLS, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. On Friday, March 17, Senator Reed participated in a forum at the RI School of Design sponsored by the RI State Council of the Arts on the need to keep arts, humanities, museum and library funding alive.
The President’s budget proposal is the beginning of the federal fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations and negotiation process. It is ultimately up to Congress to determine funding levels before sending the FY2018 funding legislation to the President for final consideration. The 2018 federal fiscal year begins on October 1, 2017. As Grants to States are awarded over a two year period, the current OLIS grant award from IMLS will be expended through September 30, 2018.