Libraries are essential to communities. AP Photo.
Photo: Matt Slocum
Photo: Matt Slocum

Opinion: Library funding’s essential for communities to flourish

The White House’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget proposal indicates a bleak future for the national support of libraries.

The Trump administration has again proposed eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides federal support for America’s libraries and museums through grantmaking, research and policy development.

Eliminating this federal funding would be detrimental to many libraries, especially here in Georgia. Not only would university libraries be negatively impacted, but also public libraries around the state, colleges and universities and institutions that benefit from federal funding, such as the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Children’s Museum of Atlanta and High Museum of Art.

At the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, federal funding from IMLS has helped us to partner with the Educopia Institute to investigate workflows for born-digital content curation in libraries and archives, and research how institutions can combine tools to support workflows that meet individual institutional needs.

Federal funding has also afforded the AUC Woodruff Library the opportunity to partner with the University of Georgia and Valdosta State University in a project called the Georgia Consortium for Advanced Library Education. This project will create interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations to better serve the needs of librarians within the state and beyond by developing advanced graduate coursework and creating educational opportunities for the development of Georgia’s current and future workforce.

Cutting federal funding would cut millions of dollars that many Georgia libraries and museums use to offer evidence-based services that benefit the state as a whole.

We encourage librarians, archivists, museum directors and supporters everywhere to get involved and tell your senators and representatives why they should support federal funding of IMLS in 2020.

As American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo said recently, “Libraries are the great equalizers. Anyone can come in and use the resources available – to learn, to read a book, to research, to write a resume, to code a computer program, to create a business plan, to experiment with new technologies, to access government information, and much more. By giving people access to resources, libraries offer chances for people to pursue success and achieve their goals.”

Isn’t that what every great nation wants? Libraries are instrumental in ensuring the success of communities across the nation, and we cannot afford to jeopardize these indispensable community institutions.

Loretta Parham is CEO and library director of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library in Atlanta The library supports the teaching, learning and research missions of four institutions of higher education that comprise the world’s largest consortium of HBCUs: Clark Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College and Spelman College. Share your personal library story on social media using the hashtag #FundLibraries.

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