letter to my representative

The House is scheduled to consider amendments to H.R. 1 this week. I am particularly concerned about this amendment. Please do not allow it to move forward:

Offered By: Mr. Garrett

AMENDMENT NO. 35: Page 303, line 13, after the dollar amount, insert “(reduced by $265,869,000)”.

Page 359, line 13, after the dollar amount, insert “(increased by $265,869,000)”.

Of course, page 303, line 13 is where H.R. 1 allocates $265,869,000 to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This amendment would eliminate all IMLS funding, including Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding.

LSTA funding supports all kinds of libraries: school, academic, and public. Libraries are already struggling in these difficult financial times, but I am particularly concerned about cuts to public library funding.

Public libraries might seem expendable to people who can hop on their always-on home high-speed broadband connections (or shiny mobile devices) to buy new e-books for their fancy e-book readers.

But, as of May 2010, one third of American adults did NOT have a high-speed broadband connection at home (source: http://is.gd/ToaOUV). As you know if you have accessed the Web via a dial-up connection in the last five or six years, accessing the vast majority of current content without high-speed access is very time-consuming and frustrating.

Public libraries are lifelines to opportunity and hope for those struggling the most in our communities as the gap between the mainstreet American and the bailed-out, fat-bonused, tax-loopholed and -havened rich continues to widen.

Today, a successful job search in many fields requires researching careers and potential employers, filling out online job applications (many employers will no longer accept paper applications!), and regularly composing and checking email. At your public library, you can do these things without needing a functioning, up-to-date laptop and the money for a cup of coffee in order to sit for a while and access the “free” wi-fi. (I’m proud that my town of Carrboro provides truly free wi-fi to everyone downtown, but you still need an expensive piece of equipment to make use of it.)

Further, many public libraries offer freely available continuing education to help people gain technical skills they need to get jobs.

Hard working Americans in very difficult times use the services offered by public libraries to pull themselves back up onto their feet. Cutting funding to public libraries yanks another rug from under many who are struggling to hold on to anything; please vote against Garret’s Amnd. 35 to H.R. 1.

Nearly 1,250 Federal depository libraries in the US and its territories provide local, no-fee access to Government information in an impartial environment with professional assistance.

I am a librarian at a depository library. Our Documents collection takes up a large amount of space and a number of full-time staff. The importance and scale of Government information affects more decisions in the library than I ever would have guessed before working in this environment.

Funding cuts anywhere in the library squeeze the rest of the library. Eliminating IMLS funding may or may not directly cut into libraries’ provision of Federal depository services, but the effects will “trickle down” to those services much faster and more effectively than newly-created “wealth” ever did.

So, please eliminate Garret’s Amnd. 35 to H.R. 1.

The indisputable facts of what Government is actually doing day-to-day are increasingly available only online, via the Library of Congress-created Thomas.gov and other .gov sites. Cutting public library funding will also strip away struggling Americans’ ability to remain informed and engaged citizens.

This is not only an end-user Web access problem.

Elimination of all IMLS funding would cripple an agency that has supported many e-government-related projects and much research on how to best provide government information to citizens. (See just a few examples in the postscript)

Garret’s Amnd. 35 to H.R. 1 would weaken libraries and inhibit progress in library and information science. Long term, this would decrease Government’s ability to produce useful and reliable Government information tools, as well as compromise access to whatever tools and information exist.

From the website of the US National Archives and Records Administration: “The printed version [of the Declaration of Independence] is on paper and was read aloud from town squares throughout the colonies, so that those who could not read would receive the news…”

Pertinent aside: Libraries also work to promote literacy. One example: http://libraries4literacy.org/ (supported by the IMLS)

Today, libraries serve as open information commons in their communities. This nation was founded with the expectation of—and its survival still depends upon—an informed citizenry. In light of this, erosion of funding for not only libraries, but also other cultural institutions, public broadcasting, education, and science is a chilling spectre.

A vote for Garret’s Amnd. 35 to H.R. 1 is a vote against an informed, empowered citizenry. If the U.S. Government truly supports the freedom, equality, and democracy it espouses, it must recognize that elimination of library funding is a move against its own interests.

Please vote AGAINST Garret’s Amnd. 35 to H.R. 1.

Kristina M. Spurgin
– E-Resources cataloger, Davis Library, UNC Chapel Hill
– Doctoral candidate, School of Information and Library Science, UNC Chapel Hill
– Teacher and life-long learner
– Voracious information consumer and creator
– Former child to whom public and school libraries were an intellectual and psychological lifeline in Florida, Louisiana, Washington, Kansas, South Carolina, and Georgia
– North Carolina voter

Here are a few current and past IMLS funded e-government projects:

– Development of a Web-based resource to help libraries and governments provide better e-government–related services such as filing taxes, applying for citizenship, enrolling children in schools, and applying for social services.

– A project to improve access to federal government publications and create a model for improving depository library services and operations.

– Two library schools will create a new librarianship specialization in government information services. This new concentration will address challenges presented by changes in the ways governments produce and make information available to the public.

– Further development of a dual master’s degree program in public administration and library or information science with an emphasis in digital curation to provide a model for other programs and highly trained individuals who will help government archives protect the public’s interest in preserving electronic government records.

– SuDocs classification of the entirety of the federal government’s public Web presence immediately before and after the 2009 change in presidential administrations, demonstrating a process by which government resources can be aligned with an individual library’s collecting priorities and also shared among other institutions utilizing the SuDocs system.

– …the Star-Spangled Center, an innovative learning environment for civic education to show how the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government operate, and how laws are created, interpreted, and enforced.

– Creation of a multistate, multitype library training program to train reference and public service librarians in using electronic federal government information resources in order to increase the confidence of existing government publication librarians, increase the knowledge of more than 500 general librarians, and create an online learning and support environment.

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