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2009 recovery bill provides opportunities for libraries

In February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which released $787 billion into the U.S. economy in an effort to put the nation’s economy back on track. Libraries could benefit from specific provisions in the stimulus bill, including $13 billion for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), $650 million for Enhancing Education Through Technology, $7.2 billion for broadband, $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, $120 million for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, and $130 million for the Rural Community Facilities Program. However, they had to compete aggressively for it. 

The ALA Washington Office established a Know Your Stimulus website ( http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/knowstimulus/index.cfm) that includes the latest news and information on the stimulus such as application information and frequently asked questions.

Some libraries did receive part of the funding designated for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and Title I of ESEA and for rural community development and education. The funding went toward employment, construction, equipment, and technologies, and many libraries were also able to hire senior citizens through the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

Funding for broadband proved to be the biggest opportunity for libraries, but its long-term impact is unclear since the process is ongoing. The ALA Washington Office continues to focus on the broadband funding programs.

In the final days of 2009, Congress began considering another stimulus bill to specifically include jobs, and the ALA is promoting its proposal to include jobs in libraries. Also on the legislative agenda for 2010: ensuring that school libraries specifically are included in the reauthorization of ESEA, increased Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) funding, identifying opportunities for supplemental funding, and other library needs tied to federal legislation.


Rettig joins education secretary in kicking off summer volunteer program

With the much-anticipated reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, more widely known as the No Child Left Behind Act, coming up in the second session of the 111th Congress, the ALA Office of Government Relations is urging the administration and Congress to see that the new legislation emphasizes the role of school libraries and the need for every school library to employ a state-certified school librarian.

In June 2009, ALA President Jim Rettig used the occasion of a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, then-New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, and regional librarians to emphasize that both school and public libraries are at the forefront of helping students achieve academically. Rettig was facilitating a special kick-off event for President Obama’s summer volunteer campaign, “United We Serve.” The event was held June 22 at Fanwood (N.J.) Memorial Library. As part of its role in the campaign, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service, combated summer reading loss and partnered with libraries and other community organizations to accomplish this goal.

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ALA President holds press conference at National Press Club

ALA President Jim Rettig held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on May 11, 2009, as part of National Library Legislative Day. Rettig’s remarks highlighted key library issues, including the ways in which libraries help people during the economic downturn. He also spoke about the importance of funding libraries so that they can continue to meet the needs of the American public.

More than 400 participants traveled to Washington for the annual event, taking part in a day of briefings on a variety of issues including appropriations, telecommunications, and the USA PATRIOT Act. The all-day briefing, hosted by the ALA Washington Office, culminated in a Congressional reception overlooking the Capitol Building. On May 12, participants put their knowledge to work while meeting with their elected officials and staff members.

Stephen Flynn, a student employee at the Mudd Library at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., received the 2009 White House Conference on Library and Information Services Award. The annual award, given to a non-librarian participating in National Library Legislative Day for the first time, is a $300 stipend granted to reduce the cost of attending the event. Additionally, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) awarded the 2009 Public Service Award to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) during National Library Legislative Day.


Around Washington...

Bill supports expanded public access to taxpayer-funded research In late June 2009, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) reintroduced S.1373, the Federal Research Public Access Act. Previously introduced in 2006, the bill would ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of research funded by 11 U.S. federal agencies. Specifically, S. 1373 would require agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from such funding no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The bill would advance and expand the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, which requires public access to taxpayer-funded research, to additional agencies.

No independent obligation to test children’s books for lead—On Aug. 26, the Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed in August that libraries have no independent obligation to test library books for lead under the law. In this final rule on children’s products containing lead, the commission also said it would release a Statement of Policy that will provide specific guidance for libraries with regard to the treatment of older children’s books that could potentially contain lead.

Congress clears the way to fund LSTA—Omnibus legislation passed by both houses in December included a slight increase for Library Services and Technology Act funding: $213.5 million for fiscal 2010, a 0.63 percent increase from fiscal 2009.

New OITP Policy Brief Series—In 2009, the Office for Information Technology Policy established a new series of policy briefs, which will comprise substantive works of about 10-30 pages each, when published. The first brief, “Fiber to the Library: How Public Libraries Can Benefit,” issued as a print version in November, is intended to help libraries understand the benefits of fiber optic technology and to suggest strategies they can consider when exploring how to obtain fiber connectivity. The paper provides background information and arguments that may be useful in library community applications to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Several other policy briefs are in process and are expected to be published in the first half of 2010.

Librarians urge adoption of SKILLS Act—The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), was expected to be reauthorized in the second session of the 111th Congress, and the ALA urged Congress to incorporate the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries Act (the SKILLS Act) into this reauthorization. The SKILLS Act, introduced in 2009 by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), would ensure that there is at least one highly qualified school librarian in each public school. 

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