American Rescue Plan Helps Secure the Future of Libraries
EveryLibrary welcomes and supports many of the proposals for economic relief, support for education and government, and the health and wellbeing of our communities in the American Rescue Plan announced today by the incoming Biden Administration.
For many public libraries, their future is linked inextricably to the revenue of their municipal funding partners. For libraries that are a part of a town, city, or county, or are nonprofits that operate under contract with a municipality, local tax receipts constitute over 90% of their budgets. State aid to libraries and the work of our state libraries are, likewise, tied to state tax revenue. Since early in the crisis we have stood alongside the National Governors Association and a coalition of national, state, and local governmental organizations to ask for "more robust and direct stimulus is needed for state and local governments to both rebuild the economy and maintain essential services in education, health care, emergency operations, public safety and more." The American Rescue Plan includes substantive supports that can be used by governments to offset the costs of COVID relief and free up other resources for everyday services. This includes funding support for public transportation, childcare and education, disaster response and emergency workers, delivery of health services, and supports for EDCs.
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School library programs and school librarian jobs are likewise contingent on the stability of education funding. The American Rescue Plan includes specific and targeted support to help schools weather the COVID economic crisis and safely reopen. Without this support from the federal government, students will continue to lose uncountable hours of learning. We do not want to see them lose more teachers and school librarians. The plan will provide $130 billion to K-12 schools to "reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance" and to close the digital divide that is "exacerbating inequities during the pandemic". We know very clearly from study after study that school librarians and a properly funded school library program that supports the curriculum will help students and make up lost learning time this year. Our colleagues have to be in place in their libraries to accomplish this, and the American Rescue Plan can provide critical funding that will help save millions of education jobs, including teachers, social workers, nurses, school librarians, school leaders, bus drivers, and more.
In many academic settings, the pressures from declining state aid, unstable enrollment figures, and the pressures of moving to digital teaching and learning have combined to create a crisis for institutions and our academic library colleagues. Again, budgets for university, college, and community college libraries are wholly contingent on the overall budgetary framework of their institutions. The American Rescue Plan provides $35 billion in new funding to expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
Across all sectors, we are very interested in seeing the expansion of unemployment programs and relief for individuals and families that the Plan calls for. Since early March 2020, our companion organization the EveryLibrary Institute has supported a mutual aid program "Help a Library Worker Out" (or the HALO Fund). This program distributed $200 personal grants to over 400 library workers and librarians who had been furloughed or laid-off during the shutdowns. These kinds of charitable projects cannot take the place of government support for the unemployed and hurting. We believe that the improvements and continuances to the Pandemic Unemployment Relief programs and additional aid to individuals and families in the American Rescue Plan is long overdue.
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Throughout the COVID crisis, EveryLibrary has consistently called on the Trump Administration and 116th Congress to focus relief on the systems that support education and local and state government as the way to support libraries of all types. As the American Rescue Plan is put before this new Congress by the incoming Biden administration, we will work to build public support for this critical relief package. As the President-Elect has indicated, the American Relief Plan is "...the first step of an aggressive, two-step plan for rescue, from the depths of this crisis, and recovery, by investing in America, creating millions of additional good-paying jobs, combating the climate crisis, advancing racial equity, and building back better than before." EveryLibrary joins a large and diverse coalition of organizations in supporting the Economic Justice Act, the framework of the upcoming economic stimulus. That bill includes a $59 billion fund for school and library construction projects (with $5 billion dedicated to libraries). This approach to putting Americans back to work through infrastructure projects, especially with this focus on libraries, is smart and effective. Communities across the country would benefit for generations from modernizing, upgrading, and building new library infrastructure.
If you would like to see these important provisions that can support libraries and librarians from the American Rescue Plan, please sign our Petition to Congress today. For communities across the country and in schools and on campuses in every state, libraries and librarians are poised to help with the recovery. Please join us in contacting Congress in support of the American Rescue Plan to secure a more robust future of our libraries and librarians.