By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
Budget woes, everybody has them. Whether you are a minimum wage clerk or a fortune 500 CEO you have to decide how you’re going to parcel out your income. We all know what we have to have, our needs, and what we want to get, our wants. However there are a few gray areas that fall under headings like clothes and cars where what we want to get may be different than what we need. This discretionary funding is where the budget woes begin. The proposed budget for next year for the federal budget tries to trim the excess from a lot of these gray areas and one of those is the funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The Institute of Museum and Library Services was created in 1996 in order to “create strong libraries and museums that connect people with information and ideas.”[i] It was established by the Museum and Libraries Service Act which must be renewed every five years. So far it has been renewed by both the Obama and Bush(43) administrations. In fact, George W. Bush augmented the IMLS by rolling the powers of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and some of the activities of the National Center for Education Statistics into its purview in order to create a more streamlined system for federal support of library services.
In the past 21 years the Institute of Museum and Library Services has funded several programs and initiatives for the betterment of American society. They have maintained a very strong focus on funding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) projects across the country and providing our country’s students access to education in the skills deemed most necessary for the 21st century. The IMLS has also shown a commitment to the technological side of libraries and museums by funding digitization projects, accessibility projects and forward thinking studies to predict the next tech that will be important for the people of tomorrow. They have a great focus on the future, but also know that our present and history are important as well. They fund collection conservation and preservation projects in order to make sure our history of knowledge and ideas is not lost, such as the Carton Plantation, and have a strong focus on community history and culture as well as programs for learning experiences in our communities. Finally they look out for the libraries’ customers by working on programs to develop staff to best suit your needs and by creating a focus on early learning so that the next generation will group up in an environment of knowledge.
The IMLS makes up a very small portion of the federal budget, but does a great deal with what it is given. The asked for expenditures of fiscal year 2016 for the federal government were almost 4 trillion dollars. The amount given to IMLS was 230 million dollars. That is approximately 0.00575% of the federal budget. To continue the analogy from before of a personal budget, if you had a budget of $50,000 then the IMLS budget would account for $2.88. You may ask, but what does that mean to a community like ours? Aside from the funding for rural communities (such as Leiper’s Fork and Bethesda) to increase and maintain their books for children, the IMLS does a great deal for libraries like ours.
What IMLS funding does for our library…
- The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is a collection of databases ranging from career help to research sources for students kindergarten through college. More than 70% of the databases available are brought to us through IMLS funding.
- Library services for the blind and physically handicapped, funded by the IMLS, allow for braille, audio and large print materials that are circulated at a rate of 1000 titles a day, state wide.
- IMLS provides support for library technology infrastructures that helps maintain those computers everyone seems to need from time to time.
- If you’ve used the card catalog or requested an interlibrary loan, programs paid for by the IMLS have helped put the item you need in your hands.
- Our adaptive tech stations, for individuals with disabilities, are from IMLS fund via a state grant.
- The books in the career center are also from the IMLS fund via a state grant.
- Most importantly, the IMLS funds Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. This is the system that our patrons love the most and is probably the most visible of the IMLS funded programs. This system is where your eBooks and eAudio-books come from. Three million titles were checked out through R.E.A.D.S. last year.
What it comes down to is the need versus want argument. Are the programs funded by the IMLS something we like having but don’t need, or something we need to maintain our educational, intellectual, and technological edge and keep America great? If you think IMLS is something Tennessee needs, then click here to go to the Tennessee Library Association’s legislative action center and tell your legislators.
[i] “About Us”. Institute of Museum and Library Services. 2015-02-19. Archived from the original on 2015-09-16. Retrieved 2017-04-13.