Libraries as a luxury item

The recent federal budget outline, with its proposal to entirely dispense with major agencies that support arts and cultural programming, perpetuates a false dichotomy that’s already been around for too long: That in an industrialized nation where half a million people are homeless on any given night and entire communities don’t have potable drinking water for months at a time, spending public funds on pretty pictures or escapist fiction is frivolous at best, and perhaps even morally suspect.

I’m someone who’s been personally affected by one of those imperiled agencies–IMLS–in several ways. A fellowship funded by a grant from IMLS paid for my doctoral studies at the University of Texas, Austin. My ongoing research with Jean-François Blanchette and our National Forum meeting on data management needs related to police body-camera programs is also funded by IMLS.  I’m on the advisory board of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s National Digital Stewardship Residency project (which is not only funded by IMLS, but partners with public broadcasters who are supported by the similarly-imperiled Corporation for Public Broadcasting…so that makes this a twofer, I guess).

I therefore called my elected representatives about this today, told them how the proposed cuts would affect me and my community, and urged them to fight for the retention of arts, library, and cultural funding in the federal budget. I also finally got myself signed up as a contributor to Medium, and wrote about the positioning of libraries as a luxury item there. (SPOILER ALERT: They’re not.)