Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a federal funding package of $ 3.5 trillion for fiscal year 2022 (FY22). This massive budget is intended to finance the entire work of the federal government, strengthen social support systems and support climate protection programs. It also passed along with an official September 27 deadline for action on a bipartisan $ 1 trillion infrastructure package. But the negotiations are far from over. The House of Representatives and the Senate have now started a reconciliation process to decide exactly how to spend that $ 3.5 trillion, and library advocates are fighting to make funding American libraries a priority.
What the congressional budget means for libraries
Each year, Congress sets total expenditure, income and surplus / deficit figures in its budget decision. However, the exact details of spending money often depend on the reconciliation, in which certain committees of Congress are tasked with setting various aspects of the budget before it is passed by a simple majority by the Senate.
The committees are now debating how to spend their portion of the $ 3.5 trillion budget of FY22, and they only have until September 15 to make their recommendations. With this in mind, library advocates are advocating their slice of the trillion dollar pie, arguing that increased federal funding at a critical time could change the country’s libraries.
“In 2021, libraries are at a turning point,” said Sari Feldman, columnist for Publisher Weekly. “With billions of federal funds at stake to build, rebuild, and reinvest in America’s libraries and library services, library supporters must see this moment for what it is: an opportunity to truly care for libraries and the future of state library support change.”
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The Build America’s Libraries Act
Proponents urge Congress to include budget provisions for FY22 to accommodate critical infrastructure in America’s libraries in accordance with funding levels set out in the Build America’s Libraries Act (HR 1581 / S. 127). This law passed in the House of Representatives by Andy Levin (D-MI) and Don Young (R-AK) and in the Senate by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D -RI ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) would provide $ 5 billion for new and improved library facilities across the country.
“The Build America’s Libraries Act will empower digital inclusion, literacy and economic opportunities in our nation’s colored communities and other underserved communities,” said Patty Wong, president of the American Library Association (ALA), in a recent statement. “The pandemic has shown the importance of libraries for equity and inclusion. While the congress is preparing the Build Back Better budget package, libraries must be involved. “
The law is supported by 149 House Representatives and 30 Senators. But the struggle to include similar provisions in the FY22 budget could prove to be a faster and more effective way of getting federal funds into the hands of American libraries.
“Congress is calling this reconciliation bill the Build Back Better package, which I think fits perfectly with what this bill for libraries is about,” said Gavin Baker, deputy director of public policy and government relations for the ALA, in an interview with Weekly newspaper of the publisher. “The pandemic has really shown how much libraries can adapt and how libraries can provide vital services even when no one is in the building. With this funding, we can not only repair the damage caused by the pandemic, but also make our buildings and facilities stronger, safer, more efficient, more accessible and more sustainable than ever before. “
What can you do to help
The ALA urges readers and book lovers across the country to contact their members of Congress about increased library funding. You can send a sample letter through the ALA website asking your lawmakers to help incorporate the provisions of the Building America’s Libraries Act into the budget reconciliation process.
Time is of the essence as the Congress Committee’s budget recommendations are due on September 15th. Consider calling or tweeting your members of Congress, especially if they are on the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee. Here you will find the contact details of your congress members.