To increase ACRL's visibility and influence in the arena of higher education policy development and legislation, the ACRL Government Relations Committee (in consultation with the ACRL Board and staff) takes a direct and active role in formulating the ACRL legislative agenda including objectives for legislative action at the national level on issues which may affect the welfare of academic and research libraries. Find out more below:
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PDF version of 2019 Legislative Agenda
ACRL’s annual Legislative Agenda lists objectives for legislative action at the national level on issues that affect the welfare of academic and research libraries. This document is typically issued each spring, prior to National Library Legislative Day, and focuses on issues that the U.S. Congress has recently taken action on, or will act on, in the year ahead. ACRL is active in advocating for policy and legislation through the ALA Washington Office, as well as through coalition work with groups such as the Open Access Working Group and the Library Copyright Alliance. The following list is in priority order and includes the issues that will be the focus of ACRL’s advocacy in 2019:
- Federal Funding for Libraries
- Net Neutrality
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- Federal Access to Publicly Funded Research
- Education Committee Activities
- Federal Depository Library Program Modernization Act
- Affordable College Textbook Act
- Watch List
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) provides federal funding for libraries through the Library Services and Technologies Act (LSTA). LSTA is the only federal program that exclusively covers services and funding for libraries. LSTA provides more than $189.3 million (FY2019) for libraries through the Grants to States program, the National Leadership Grants for Libraries, the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, and Native American Library Services.
Library funding has increased slightly over the last two budgets as IMLS funding in FY2019 came to roughly $242 million, up from $231 million two years ago. In December 2018, Congress passed S. 3530, a bill to reauthorize IMLS through the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA), which was signed by the President on December 31, 2018 (PL 115-410).
On March 11, 2019, the White House released its FY2020 federal budget proposal, which again proposes elimination of IMLS, despite the President’s signature to reauthorize the agency just three months previous. Impact on Academic Libraries Funding LSTA and the reauthorization of IMLS through MLSA are priority issues for all libraries. Since LSTA funds are distributed via state library agencies to support statewide programs and initiatives, academic libraries with state-funded resources are likely to be greatly impacted by the loss of LSTA grant funds. Within the states, LSTA funds are also distributed as subgrants or cooperative agreements to public, school, academic, research, and special libraries.
ACRL and ALA continue their campaign to preserve federal funding for libraries through IMLS. ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo vowed to continue to work with Congress to ensure library funding continues. “Elected decision-makers, including appropriators in both the House and Senate, agree that funding IMLS programs such as the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is a sound investment and that to cut funding for libraries is to undercut opportunity for their constituents.”
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Network neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data equally and should not discriminate or provide preference to any data regardless of its source, content, or destination. Whether legislation is needed to ensure network neutrality has become a focal point in the debate over telecommunications reform. Network neutrality advocates argue that without strong protections in place, there is nothing to stop internet service providers from blocking or throttling legal internet traffic or setting up commercial arrangements where certain traffic is prioritized over other traffic. Those opposed to legislative or regulatory safeguards claim that such action goes against the long-standing policy to keep the Internet as free as possible from government regulation and the state of the Internet before this attempted regulation has allowed for commercial innovation and growth.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In February 2015, the FCC approved reclassifying high-speed Internet as a “telecommunications service rather than an information one, subjecting providers to regulation.” In June 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the 2015 Order and affirmed the FCC’s authority to reclassify broadband. The FCC re-opened the proceeding in 2018 and received a record number of comments, then voted along party lines to repeal the 2015 order. This ruling has since been appealed back to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which heard arguments in February 2019. The ALA and higher education associations again filed amicus in support of the previous 2015 order. A ruling is expected before fall 2019.
Since the FCC’s ruling, thirty-four states and the District of Columbia introduced 120 bills and resolutions regarding net neutrality in the 2018 legislative session. Five states—California, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—enacted legislation or adopted resolutions.
In April, Democrats in the House passed the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644) that would repeal the FCC’s ruling. The White House, however, said it strongly opposes the bill, signaling that President Trump would veto it. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the bill was "dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Impact on Academic Libraries Educational institutions, including libraries, rely on the high-bandwidth applications and services, which support access to resources, collaboration, content creation, and learning—activities core to their mission. Yet these are the institutions and organizations that are the least able to pay for priority, high-bandwidth access. As colleges and universities seek to be equal access providers of digital content and applications of all types via the Internet, eliminating the net neutrality rules promulgated by the Obama Administration would invite discriminatory practices by ISPs.
ACRL stands with ALA’s assertion that without net neutrality policies, ISPs could act as gatekeepers by giving enhanced or favorable transmission to some Internet traffic, block access to certain websites or applications, or otherwise discriminate against certain Internet services for their own commercial reasons. In a March 2017 letter to the FCC before the repeal vote, ACRL joined with several other associations in asserting that, “preserving the unimpeded flow of information over the public Internet and ensuring equitable access for all people is critical to our nation’s social, cultural, educational, and economic well-being.” The letter also reaffirmed a set of principles around maintaining net neutrality.
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In June 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented a program called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” commonly called DACA. DACA authorized certain noncitizens, who were brought to this country as children, to remain in the United States. In order to be granted deferred action under DACA, certain criteria had to be met, which are laid out in what is often called the “DACA Memo.”
In September 2017, the Trump administration rescinded DACA and effectively set an end date to the legal protections temporarily granted to approximately 800,000 people. As DACA was considered a temporary fix, it was anticipated that it would be replaced with laws that would formalize the status of immigrants under its protections. However, such legislation, like the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), had been under consideration by Congress since 2001. The Trump administration’s order in September 2017 to rescind DACA, effective March 5, 2018, allowed a six-month grace period for anyone with current DACA status to file for renewal and allowed Congress more time to “address the fate of hundreds of thousands of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.”
In January 2018, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the September 2017 rescission of the DACA program. Through appealing the injunction, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to review and decide the DACA issue. The Court declined, which nullified the March 5 deadline and allowed recipients of DACA to continue renewing their applications while the case works its way through the courts.
In June 2018, the Memorandum from Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen agreed with the decision of Secretary Duke under the Duke Memorandum (set on September 5, 2017) to rescind the DACA policy. In Nielsen’s Memorandum, she calls legality of the DACA policy into question.
Despite the efforts of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Trump administration, in November 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the nationwide preliminary injunction issued by the federal judge in California which temporarily prevents the Trump administration from ending the DACA program and requires DHS to continue accepting renewal applications (National Law Review, November 12, 2018). Currently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not accepting requests from individuals who have never been granted deferred action under DACA, but due to ongoing court orders, USCIS continues to accept renewal requests.
The Higher Education Dream Act of 2018 was introduced into the House July 25, 2018. If passed, the Higher Education Dream Act will prohibit institutions of higher education receiving federal funds from refusing to admit, enroll, or grant in-state tuition to qualified students based on their immigration status. There is no legislation, as it is currently working its way through the following House committees: Education and the Workforce, Judiciary, and Immigration and Border Security.
Impact on Academic Libraries
The ACRL Board of Directors has publicly recognized DACA students, faculty, and staff in higher education—many of whom work in libraries—as important and valued members of the academic community. The loss of these groups who “contribute their unique perspectives” would “harm intellectual freedom by removing the voices of vulnerable groups from the scholarly discourse, and would jeopardize the invaluable cultural enrichment brought to our campuses by immigrant students, faculty and staff.”
If the Higher Education Dream Act becomes a law, institutions will no longer be able to discriminate against students based on their immigration status. Currently, policies vary state-by-state, and the Higher Education Dream Act would put an end to these discrepancies. The admittance of undocumented students culturally enriches our institutions and in turn will positively affect academic libraries that strive to support the needs of students, faculty, and staff.
ACRL continues to support DACA protection for immigrants. In 2017, REFORMA issued a statement appealing to Congress “to pass legislation to resolve this human rights matter.” In addition, former ALA President Jim Neal stated, “We are disappointed that protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are in jeopardy. Through no fault of their own, these undocumented youth were brought to this country as children and deserve the opportunity to contribute to our society without the fear of being deported. We ask Congress to work together to find a solution to this issue.”
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The academic library community has a longstanding commitment to make taxpayer-funded research results publicly available. Every year, the U.S. federal government funds more than $60 billion in basic and applied research, which is primarily concentrated in 11 departments/agencies and results in a significant number of articles being published each year (approximately 100,000 annually as a result of National Institutes of Health [NIH] funding alone). Because this research is funded by U.S. taxpayers, there is public interest in seeing it disseminated and used as widely as possible, including providing access to articles reporting on the results of funded research. A number of measures have made important progress toward this goal, such as the NIH Public Access Policy (which became mandatory with passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007) and the 2013 directive from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which requires federal agencies with research and development budgets in excess of $100 million to increase access to federally funded scientific research.
The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was first introduced in 2006, reintroduced in 2009, and reintroduced again in the 112th Congress on February 9, 2012. It was superseded by the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), originally introduced in 2013, refiled on March 18, 2015, as S. 779/H.R. 1477, and again in summer 2017 as H.R. 3427/ S. 1701, with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate chambers. FASTR has widespread support among the library, higher education, advocacy, and funding organizations with a commitment to increased openness to the results of sponsored research.
FASTR is intended to require some federal agencies and departments to :submit an electronic copy of the final manuscript that has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, as well as ensuring preservation of manuscripts and its public availability. While the directives for agencies have not been codified in law, many agencies are establishing repositories or collaborating to use existing repository platforms.
Legislation has not yet been introduced in the current Congress and seems unlikely to be.
Impact on Academic Libraries
With the passage of legislation supporting open access, academics will be able to share research results more widely across institutions and disciplines, collaborate more effectively, and reuse results for new research, as well as verification and replication. Sharing the results of research will allow new research efforts to be accelerated, resulting in greater innovation, new products and services, and long-term economic growth. In addition, articles and data available in a digital environment allow new fields of research and analysis to emerge through the use of computational analysis tools, which could revolutionize academic research. We would expect the pace of innovation to accelerate and offer more benefits to colleges and universities that have invested in research, technology transfer, and partnerships with their business and nonprofit communities.
OA would allow more equitable access to research articles across libraries of different locations, funding sources, and sizes. Libraries would be able to build new services and supporting structures for researchers to use and share research results. The passage of legislation fulfills the goals of credible, taxpayer-funded research being widely available for the purposes of education, practice, and lifelong learning of our academic colleagues and the public.
The environment for open access to scholarship and open data has changed since the introduction of FASTR in 2013, and its reintroduction. ACRL takes the position that new OA legislation should be developed to bring policy up to date, and it should be consistent with policies we now see in other countries.
Community norms for sharing research have shifted and we now support OA for both articles (as with FASTR) as well as for underlying research data (as with White House Directive). New legislation needs to cover both, with reuse rights and immediate access (no embargoes). In addition to data gathered during the research process, access should include any code, software, algorithms, and computational tools that were developed and are necessary to do that validation.
These positions are consistent with recent ACRL actions in support of open and immediate access to research and data. For example, ACRL wrote Comments to National Institutes of Health, Office of Science Policy, on Data Management and Sharing (December 5, 2018). In commenting on the definition of scientific data, ACRL suggested that NIH reconsider the exclusion of laboratory notebooks and case reports. In commenting on the requirement for a data management and sharing plan, ACRL made several suggestions including that NIH provide guidance on making data shareable, clearly define key terms, consider designating the data management plan (DMP) as Additional Review Criteria and incorporating review of the DMP in the overall impact score, reconsider the proposed DMP limit of two pages, and offer more explicit guidance to explain minimally adequate preservation. In commenting on the optimal timing implementation, ACRL noted that with robust guidance and infrastructure, a year of community preparation could be sufficient and suggested that providing tutorials or other learning objects in the call for proposals could be helpful.
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The House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by Representative Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), works on issues relating to the U.S. education system and workforce and provides oversight of policies administered by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, chaired by Representative Susan A. Davis (D-California), covers issues on post-secondary education. Issues for which they have jurisdiction include the Higher Education Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, all programs relating to museums and library services, and postsecondary career and technical education.
Committee Action Relevant to ACRL
The House Committee on Education and Labor has introduced several bills that would be of interest to academic and research library communities. These include:
H.R. 2006 and S. 943 College Equity Act of 2019, introduced April 1, 2019, and March 28, 2019 (respectively), seeks to require the Department of Education to establish grant programs that fund equity audits for institutions of higher education to review and address inequities in student recruitment, admissions, and support.
H.R. 2486 Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act, introduced May 2, 2019, seeks to reauthorize mandatory funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions.
H.R. 2186 Student Loan Refinancing Act, introduced April 9, 2019, seeks to authorize borrowers of William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans to modify the interest rates of such loans to equal the interest rate for such loans at the time of modification.
H.R. 2161 and S. 1072 Pell Flexibility Act of 2019, introduced April 9, 2019, seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish a job training federal Pell Grant demonstration program.
H.R. 1899 Student Loan Refinancing and Recalculation Act, introduced March 27, 2019, seeks to provide for the refinancing and recalculation of certain federal student loans.
H.R. 1707 and S. 768 Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, introduced March 13, 2019, seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain federal student loans.
H.R. 2026 and S. 984 Safe Equitable Campus Resources and Education Act of 2019, introduced April 2, 2019, seeks to address the needs of individuals with disabilities within the Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
S. 976 Campus Accountability and Safety Act, introduced April 1, 2019, seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to combat campus sexual assault.
S. 867 PROTECT Students Act of 2019, introduced March 26, 2019, seeks to improve oversight and accountability of institutions of higher education, particularly for-profit colleges, improve protections for students and borrowers, and ensure the integrity of postsecondary education programs.
Impact on Academic Libraries
Current legislation can be grouped into three major categories: College Affordability and Student Loan Repayment, Diversity and Inclusion, and Campus Safety.
I. College Affordability and Loan Repayment
Several of the bills currently under consideration by the 116th Congress introduce options for refinancing federal student loans, for expanding federal Pell grants, and for expanding access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Also introduced is legislation that proposes greater oversight of the performance of colleges and universities, including the College Transparency Act (H.R. 1776/S. 800), which proposes that colleges collect postsecondary student data, and S. 968/867 the PROTECT Acts, which call for greater oversight of both for-profit and not-for profit colleges, including institutional risk-sharing.
The Affordable College Textbook Act (H.R. 2107 and S. 1036) and the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (S. 718) both focus on reducing costs related to higher education.
Key provisions of the proposed acts could significantly change student loan programs, particularly the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, could impact student workers in academic libraries, as well as impact financial aid opportunities for students in LIS programs.
II. Diversity and Inclusion
The College Equity Act of 2019 (H.R. 2006/S. 943) seeks to explore how identity factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, income, criminal background, military service, first-generation students, students with disabilities, student parents, and transfer students might produce gaps in student recruitment, admissions, and support at institutions of higher education.
H.R. 2486, The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act, reauthorizes funding to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
Both of these acts could impact the recruitment of students to LIS programs and into careers in academic librarianship.
III. Campus Safety
H.R. 2026, safe Equitable Campus Resources and Education Act of 2019--and H.R. 976 Campus Accountability and Safety Act--both propose changes to the Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and to better combat sexual assault. Both of these acts could impact the safety of and reporting policies for academic libraries.
H.R. 1678 Protect Our Universities Act of 2019, introduced March 12, 2019, seeks to create a task force within the Department of Education to address the threat of foreign government influences and threats to academic research on college campuses. The act proposes that an open federally funded research environment exposes the United States to the possibility of exchanging research affiliated with current or future critical military technological systems; therefore, technology and information that could be deemed sensitive to the national security interests of the United States should be given increased scrutiny to determine if access should be restricted in a research environment.
Academic librarians share a concern for affordability of higher education, access to higher education from traditionally underrepresented groups, campus safety, and the impact rising costs have on students’ success. Any legislation that would promote these ideals are supported by the organization.
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Title 44, Chapter 19 of the United States Code establishes the legal basis for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which is meant to ensure free public access to government publications for the general public. Having been asked by the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to recommend changes to Title 44, the Depository Library Council (DLC), in the summer of 2017, issued a call for comments from the library community on the substantive modernization of Title 44, and, in response, many libraries came forward with their concerns and recommendations. Some of the major ongoing issues cited with the FDLP include a lack of provision for selective depository libraries to be digital-only, the division of operational responsibilities between agencies who contribute content and the GPO, and staffing. In October 2017, DLC submitted recommendations to GPO, and the Committee on House Administration completed a draft bill of revisions to Title 44 in December. In response, the GPO compiled feedback on the bill from the FDLP community and provided it to the Committee on House Administration. The bill was revised in February 2018, and additional feedback from the GPO was forwarded to the Committee on House Administration. In March 2018, the House filed H.R. 5305, the FDLP Modernization Act of 2018. The bill addresses many issues, including improved access to electronic resources, digitization of historical publications for public access, modernization of the online repository, free public access to GPO’s online repository (govinfo.gov), and improved access to cataloging data produced by SuDoc.
The American Library Association (ALA), American Association of Law Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries co-signed a letter of support for H.R. 5305, while the GPO published a statement of their own. In April, amendments to H.R. 5305 were made available by the Committee on House Administration. The Congressional Budget Office released their cost estimates for H.R. 5305 (the FDLP Modernization Act) on May 25, 2018. This was followed in June by ALA releasing a statement recognizing the 25th anniversary of the GPO Access Act and calling for the enactment of the FDLP Modernization Act. As the bill makes its way through the legislative process, it is important that institutions stay involved, comment, and make suggestions for changes to the FDLP in order to ensure the future of public access to government documents.
Impact on Academic Libraries
The majority of Federal Depository Libraries are associated with an academic institution, a relationship that allows academic libraries to offer an important service creating access to government information both online and in print. Improving and modernizing public access to government information has become both essential and challenging for academic libraries as the demand for easier-to-use interfaces has grown and use of these resources has declined.
ACRL has been a longstanding proponent of revising Title 44 in order to develop an “appropriate model for providing access to government information to 21st century audiences.” In 2008, then-ACRL President Julie Todaro wrote, “ACRL is a proponent of reconsidering Title 44 so that it ensures excellent access to government information while allowing for innovations as libraries work to provide this service. Regional depository libraries are self-funded and voluntary participants in the Federal Depository Library Program. They play a critical role in providing public access to government information, and we support allowing them flexibility to collaborate, innovate, and experiment in order to thrive.”
The Affordable College Textbook Act has its roots in concerns about the high costs of education and the ability of students to manage these costs. The increasing price of textbooks has drawn the attention of legislators, and, as a result, legislation has been introduced to combat these rising costs. The bill was first introduced in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congress, but it did not advance.
According to SPARC, The Affordable College Textbook Act:
- Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students.
- Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public.
- Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students.
- Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle.
- Requires the Government Accountability Office to provide an updated report on the price trends of college textbooks to Congress.
The Affordable College Textbook Act is supported by U.S. PIRG, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), National Association of College Stores, Association of Big Ten Students, Young Invincibles, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, UNCF, Creative Commons, Association of Research Libraries, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and CAST.
On April 4, 2019, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), along with U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), reintroduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to both houses of Congress. The bill can be found as H.R.2107 and S.103.
The Affordable College Textbook Act aims to permanently authorize funds for a grant program for the creation of Open Educational Resources, following a pilot last year of $10 million that went to three institutions. It also asks institutions to increase transparency around course material costs.
Impact on Academic Libraries
Academic librarians share a concern for affordability of higher education and the impact rising costs have on students’ success. They also share the interest in supporting open educational resources as part of a larger movement toward opening scholarly and learning resources for sharing freely, adapting for coursework, expanding the corpus of openly available course content, and adopting it on a large scale in the classroom. As part of the commitment to embed information literacy and access to quality resources into the student experience and strategies for teaching and learning, librarians are working with academic colleagues to create such resources and to offer them freely for adoption by others.
Open Education Resources may be seen as a growing part of library programs that support new methods of scholarly communication, open access, library publishing, and digital scholarship. They also may be a component of implementing new open pedagogies and developing digital literacy for students and faculty.
ACRL joined with 14 other organizations to support the Affordable College Textbook Act in its introduction to Congress. This legislation’s aim at equity of access to higher education reflects ACRL’s values.
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Customarily, the Government Relations Committee places on the Watch List those issues that are not included in the Legislative Agenda because there is no relevant legislation pending or no legislation is necessary. In writing the 2019 Agenda, however, all the issues of primary concern, as identified by the committee, had pending legislation at the time of publication and were therefore placed on the Agenda. Consequently, for this year, at least, there is no Watch List.
Approved by the ACRL Board of Directors, June 22, 2019.