Library services corporations push back on federal budget cuts
80 companies unite to prevent elimination of Institute for Museum and Library Services
Approximately 80 companies including EBSCO Information Services, macmillan and Britannica Digital Learning have united to form the Corporate Committee for Library Investment (CCLI) and requested all 50 senators sign a "Dear Appropriator" letter in response to President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts that eliminate funding for public libraries.
In fact, the current administration proposes to eliminate the Institute for Museum and Library Services, an independent agency created in 1996 by the Library Services and Technology Act that distributes grants through state programs to public libraries. According to the agency's website, the Library Services and Technology Act is appropriated $186.6 million annually. Of that amount, New Hampshire received $1.19 million per year from 2012-2016. (Massachusetts received a little over $3 million.)
In its own press release, CCLI said public libraries spend $8 billion for goods and services.
"This is a little bit more than reacting to the funding challenges in the new budget," said Kathleen McEvoy, vice president of communications for EBSCO, which owns GOBI Library Services, a global online bibliographic information provider based in Contoocook that helps libraries with their collection development and book and e-book acquisition. "I think the fact someone came along and said this should be cut completely is an indication there's a real lack of understanding of the value libraries bring to the communities and that's more important than us trying to save the money stream."
The proposed cuts would not only affect town and municipal libraries but also academic institutions, K-12 schools, some research centers, focus-specific libraries and large buying groups for library purchases.
EBSCO provides a vast collection of multidisciplinary scholarly articles, newspapers, magazines and other valued research and publications utilized by students and casual readers through its online database. Often citizens can access their services through the local library's website, after logging in.
"We have statewide deal with New Hampshire. We provide 15 databases made available to public libraries and schools," said McEvoy. That also includes Business Source, the most used database in the world that provides a database of distributors and information about large companies and more.
McEvoy says regular citizens may utilize one of EBSCO's databases to better understand their health conditions and treatment options.
Other services library goers may utilize are digitally preserved historical data, or even generally seek broadband service.
"With the move to e-government or online job applications, if you're someone looking for a job, the library's the only place you can," said McEvoy. "Libraries are about bringing access to the underserved, bringing access to people who are visually impaired or handicap."
According to an American Library Association survey, in rural areas, more than 83 percent of libraries report they serve as their community's only provider of free internet and computing services.
“If you think of online information, people think everything’s online, and for the most part these articles are not accessible, and they should not need to pay for them if they can access them through their library's website" or from within the library, said McEvoy. "Where people aren’t using it, they’re missing out."
At press time, CCLI had gotten over 30 senators to sign the letter, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.
"In recent years, millions of dollars in Institute of Museum and Library Services funds have allowed local New Hampshire libraries to provide vital services such as the inter-library loan system as well as resources for the blind and physically handicapped," said Shaheen in response to a request from NH Business Review. "While I'm disappointed that the president's budget proposes to eliminate the IMLS, I'll continue to advocate for full funding of this agency through my position in the Senate Appropriations Committee."
"Libraries are critical to helping Granite Staters discover the world around them and prepare for jobs in the 21st century economy," said Hassan. "I am very concerned that President Trump's budget proposal eliminates funding for the Library Services and Technology Act, and I will continue working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to prevent these cuts."
McEvoy acknowledges the CCLI is the largest group representing the library goods and services industry, with its membership expanding beyond the Library Business Alliance, which has traditionally served as the gathering spot for the industry and arm to Washington.
"We're just bringing it together; that's where the power is," said McEvoy. "Now, when we go on the hill, it's not just me from EBSCO, it's talking about libraries with all of these other companies behind me."