Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie funded the building of 2,509 libraries. Between 1964 and 1995, the federal Library Services and Construction Act held out the possibility of federal funds to help communities build libraries. Neither of those possibilities exist today.
As Appleton is assessing the need for a new or expanded library building, I'm often asked if there are federal funds or major national grant funds available for library construction. I know of none; there have been a few state programs, though not in Wisconsin. Communities are pretty much on their own for local tax-based or charitable funding of their public libraries. Which brings us to the "stimulus package."
Today I've been on the phone with the offices of both our Senators: Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. On Wednesday, 28 January 2009, the House of Representatives passed their version of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" with $819 billion for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, and assistance to the unemployed.
Public libraries are not included.
This is a shame in many respects. Anybody who's been reading or watching the news know that public libraries do a lot in job preservation, education and assistance to the unemployed, and that this has become more significantly more important in the current economic crisis.
According to the American Library Association:
School libraries are already included as a qualifying institution for the K-12 Repair and Modernization funding and academic libraries are also included in the Higher Education Repair and Modernization funding.So as the U.S. Senate takes up the stimulus package, librarians are asking them to modify their version to allow state governments to allocate some of their funds to public libraries.
Bankers and auto manufacturers seem to be in the game. Schools and academic libraries have a shot. I'd just like us to qualify for consideration: we’d be a great infrastructure investment.
Over 120 years ago, Andrew Carnegie knew that building a library was one of the surest ways to help a community lift itself. Let's hope that idea hasn't been lost.