Librarians Assemble To Oppose Elimination of Federal Support
Washington--About 350 librarians from across the country gathered here last week to urge members of Congress to avert the establishment of a "cultural and educational deficit" by continuing federal support for public and academic libraries.
The Reagan Administration's 1986 budget proposal, following a three-year pattern, contains no funding for such facilities.
In each of the last three years, the President has asked the Congress to eliminate federal-grant programs for libraries, but thus far lawmakers have chosen to ignore his recommendation; they provided such grant programs with $125 million for the current fiscal year.
But while the Congress has given no indication it intends to eliminate the grants in its 1986 budget, and a budget compromise between Republican Senate leaders and the Administration includes restoration of the grants, library officials are con3cerned that the funding may ultimately fall victim to Congress's deficit-cutting mood.
Librarians understand the need to lower the deficit, said E.J. Josey, president of the American Library Association. But, he said, "our nation will have a more serious educational and cultural deficit if funds are cut off for libraries."
"I don't think the Administration has any idea of the impact this zero budgeting would have on libraries across the country," said Charles W. Robinson, president of the ala's public-library division. "This would do untold damage to state libraries, as well as public libraries, across the United States."
The two ala officials made their comments at a press conference held by the association here last week to kick off National Library Week and to protest the President's proposed budget cuts and other changes in federal policy that librarians say limit the public's access to information.
State libraries, which receive an average of 30 percent of their operating budgets from federal grants, would be most affected by the Administration's proposed cuts, Mr. Robinson said in an interview. Many of the nation's public libraries receive no federal money, he said, but they rely on the state libraries for leadership, interlibrary networking, and cooperation.
A loss of federal money would make the state libraries "ineffective for years to come," he predicted.
The proposed cuts would also threaten adult-literacy projects, special services to the blind and handicapped, and bookmobile operations, other librarians charged.
In addition, a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget that would curtail the federal government's efforts to collect and disseminate information drew criticismel5lfrom the librarians.
Under the proposal, published in the March 15 Federal Register, many of the information-gathering activities of the various federal agencies would be transferred to the private sector.
Library officials acknowledged that such changes might save the government money, but they questioned the value of the savings if the public's access to unclassified federal documents and information is reduced.
The librarians also voiced concern over an Administration proposal to eliminate the postal subsidy that makes possible reduced rates for libraries. (See Education Week, April 3, 1985.)
Any increase in postal rates would limit the services many libraries provide, they said, and would reduce the money available for books.--br