by Stan Cutler

In President Trump’s proposed 2020 budget, there is zero funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that provides library and museum grants, policy development and research. Defunding the IMLS would effectively end all federal funding of public libraries. His budget also cuts funding to the Department of Education by 10%, including all support for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program.

Public libraries are hybrids that need multiple funding sources. The Free Library of Philadelphia, for example, relies heavily on the Philadelphia Library Foundation’s endowment and annual fund drives. Small donations from groups like ours, the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, are used to fill in gaps and supplement professional staff with volunteer services. Without political support, these supplementary nutrients will have to increase significantly in the 21st century if public libraries are to thrive.

Worldwide, libraries are evolving and adapting to new media technologies and the social changes that accompany them. Budgeting authorities in every country and at every level challenge public library administrators to prove that they are not obsolete repositories of media that people no longer want or use. What is a library’s purpose? Why is it important enough to allocate scarce resources?

Libraries are beneficial to every person who reads. It’s an affection based, in part, on nostalgia – on memories of happy childhoods enlightened by the magic of the written word. Because digitized content can be delivered more quickly and cheaply than print on paper, libraries now provide unlimited, free access to digitized media. Is that enough? We, absent any public support, have that access through devices in our pockets and desks.

So what’s at stake? Everything that people like Trump hate.

Our library is a non-sectarian, apolitical, non-commercial place dedicated to ideas, community and the freedom to learn. The Trump budget is more than the equivalent of a massive book bonfire – it’s a calculated attack on American civic life. He is against public libraries. He thinks they are unnecessary. Do you?

The Friends organization is preparing a Fall Speakers Series. Please consider being one of our speakers. Describe your topic and why it is of interest. Ideally, programs, presentations, talks or lectures should be 60 to 90 minutes. For the fall, we are also considering offering courses and workshops. We will provide projection equipment for PowerPoint or internet-linked display. Go to the Contacts page at chlibraryfriends.org if you you’d like to submit a proposal. Also, have a look at the page describing the free events remaining in our Spring series.

Upcoming events (8711 Germantown Ave.):

April 23, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. – What Happened to the Lenape? – Claude Epstein, former Stockton University Professor and expert on the impacts of European development on Delaware Valley’s native people and natural resources

May 7, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. – Music and Memory – Marja Kaisla, concert pianist and educator, reveals the latest findings on the remarkable power of music to inhibit the symptoms of dementia

Stan Cutler is a Hill resident and member of the board of the Friends of Chestnut Hill Library.

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