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E.D. Again Urges Congress To Restructure Library Aid

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Washington--For the second time in two years, the Education Department has proposed restructuring federal library programs by channeling money into services for disadvantaged and handicapped people, research, and resource-sharing among libraries.

The library-services improvement act of 1989 contains the same programs as legislation proposed by the department last year but not adopted by the Congress.

The act requests $137.2 million for library programs in fiscal 1990, the same amount appropriated for 1989 by the Congress and $61.2 million more than the Education Department had proposed spending last year.

New Role Said Needed

The current Library Services and Construction Act--which expires September 30--funds public-library services, construction, literacy programs, training, and inter-library cooperation, among other programs.

In a joint House-Senate subcommittee hearing last week on reauthorizing the federal library program for the next five years, Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, said those programs had succeeded in the goal of expanding library services to virtually every community. A new federal role is needed, he argued.

"Clearly, concentration of the federal dollar where it can do the most good is essential," Mr. Kolb testified.

Senator Claiborne Pell, chairman of the Senate Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee, noted that the library act had been sustained by the Congress despite repeated attempts by the Reagan Administration to "wipe it out entirely."

The Rhode Island Democrat asked Anne Mathews, director of library programs for the Education Department's office of educational research and improvement, how state librarians had reacted to the proposed legislation.

"We've heard from about half of them," Ms. Mathews replied. "Many of them are quite satisfied with [the law] the way it is."

State librarians who testified at the hearing last week said federal "seed money" had enabled them to establish vital programs, such as adult-literacy classes, that otherwise would not have been possible.

"Although [Library Services and Construction Act] grants allow for experimentation, most of our projects have been very successful and have been absorbed into our regular operations whenever possible, following the grant period," said a statement by James W. Compton, president of the Chicago Public Library's board of directors.

The American Library Association supports reauthorizing the act in its current form.

Focus on Disadvantaged

The Education Department's proposal would allocate $91 million for services to the disadvantaged through formula grants to the states. This title would support literacy training and English instruction, after-school homework programs, summer reading programs and special training of librarians, among other programs.

Under Title II, $45 million would be allocated through formula grants and discretionary grants for resource-sharing projects that would encourage libraries to share their books and materials and acquire computer equipment.

Title III of the proposed legislation would support research on the impact of new technology on library services, as well as dissemination of research findings.

Representative Pat Williams, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, said he expected to introduce legislation on the library act in about a month.

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