Annoyed Librarian
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Bigger Worries

Sometimes I just don’t what to say about the ALA, so I’ll probably contradict myself at some point along the way.

I was just reading through the ALA press release about the latest budget proposal from Congressman Paul Ryan. The thing is, it’s a completely appropriate response from an organization concerned with American libraries. Also, it made me laugh and shake my head in disbelief.

Here’s the first sentence of the ALA President’s response to the budget: “We were shocked to learn that Representative Paul Ryan recommended eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the agency that administers the primary source of federal funding to libraries.”

First of all, either that shock is feigned, or the ALA really hasn’t been following politics at all for the past few years. That Paul Ryan would want to cut a service that was of no benefit to rich people shouldn’t be shocking. That’s the norm. It’s his schtick.

He’s a one trick pony and that trick is slashing programs and lowering taxes on rich people. Or maybe his trick is to keep trying and failing to do that, but who knows what the future holds.

So that part made me laugh. It should have read instead, “We were shocked, SHOCKED, etc.,” just to let everyone know that we’re not really shocked, or even surprised. We just want someone to think so. Appalled, maybe, but not shocked.

Then there’s a bit on the importance of the IMLS. And that’s what the ALA should be focusing on.

Other groups focus on other parts. Ryan also proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, so something called the National Humanities Alliance has started a petition to get NEH funding reinstated, because if anything is going to persuade Paul Ryan it’s a petition signed by a lot of liberal arts professors. Might as well have a petition signed by a bunch of librarians.

But frankly, after reading this summary of all the stuff Ryan wants to cut, my first thought on both the IMLS and the NEH was, hey, we’ve got way bigger problems here. He wants wants to privatize Medicaid. I might be poor and depend on Medicaid someday, so I don’t want it privatized.

On a smaller note, he wants to eliminate funding for Amtrak. That might seem like a good idea if you live in the middle of Wisconsin, but for the area where Ryan actually lives, that would be a terrible idea. More cars on the road might be good for the oil companies, but it sure isn’t good for Boston, NYC, or Washington.

It’s not like the budget is going to pass or anything, and it’s appropriate for the ALA and that humanities group to focus their efforts, but there might be times when issue advocacy should take a backseat to the greater good.

I’m not saying this is one of those times, just that it might be.



  1. Medicaid is not Medicare. Pretty sure when you’re old you plan on depending on Medicare. Knowing Paul Ryan, he’s probably planning on privatizing Medicare and getting rid of Medicaid all together.

  2. Amtrak is useful even in the middle of Wisconsin. It’s a nice way to travel long distances. So, Ryan isn’t even aware of what that offers in his own back yard. But he’s an idiot, so it’s not a surprise. His fellow politicians in WI are very anti education, anti library, etc.

    • Wisconsin definitely needs more public transit – a more flexible system for both long distances and feeder routes. Janesville is close enough to Beloit, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and the Twin Cities that some sort of rail service would be great. Gov. Walker nixed the high-speed train service through Wisconsin which would have connected the Twin Cities with Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

  3. The ALA response seems to miss the point entirely. Henrietta Verma’s editor’s letter fantasizes about “an army of advisers helping him devise a plan that would appeal to those who view libraries as one more communist scheme to bleed hard-working people dry.” He’s not targeting libraries. He wants to cut every single thing except the military from the federal budget.

    If he had some vendetta against commie librarians, he’d be recommending that state and local funding to libraries also be cut. Again, he’s not.

    What he is doing, or aiming to do, is slash-and-burn the federal government. The $0.50/capita in IMLS funding is a miniscule part of this.

  4. I’m a tax and spend liberal, but spending federal funds on departments such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Department of Education is unintelligent. In the state I live in, public libraries are funded through local government, sometimes cities and sometimes special library districts. School and academic libraries are funded through their schools. This makes our state library and the IMLS superfluous and wasteful. The IMLS doesn’t have an important role in this picture or enough money to accomplish anything.

    Even though I think public schools should be funded and administered federally, we apparently want local control of schools, so we don’t need the Department of Education. The mixing of local and federal services we have in law enforcement – city police, county sheriffs, state police, Federal Marshals, DEA, AFT FBI, the CIA, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol – is stupid and wierd.

    • You call yourself a “tax and spend liberal” (which liberals wouldn’t call themselves) and then go on to say a bunch of things that prove that isn’t true. I’ve gotten some extremely useful grants from IMLS. Just because you or your library hasn’t, doesn’t make them superfluous. IMLS isn’t there to fully fund libraries. It’s there to give out grant money for worthwhile projects that we can’t get funding for from our county or local governments.

    • Funded by IMLS says:

      Ahem: it’s only fair to identify which state library agency you are denouncing as “superfluous and wasteful” (a border state, one can suppose). Like most agencies and public libraries, I’m guessing the funding for these ostensibly self-sufficient libraries you cite as examples comes from a variety of sources. In our state we have a number of small publics that rely heavily on administrative guidance and resource sharing facilitated through the state library. And, yes, our funding match from the state and other sources is robust – nevertheless, we could not operate without LSTA.

  5. The IMLS is not a particularly effective agency for providing grants in my opinion. They do provide grants however and we cannot lose the valuable funding they provide. That’s the conundrum as I see it. Of course I would not believe in Ryan style cuts, but I do wish the IMLS was better.

  6. AL, shocked, SHOCKED, you joined the occupy movement.

    • Where in this post does AL say that? Since when did “occupy” become a synonym for “advocacy”?

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