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School librarians upset over Obama budget

February 5, 2010 |  8:49 am

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President Obama's budget, which upped education funding by 6.2% to $400 billion, has eliminated the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries grant program, so there will be no federal funds specifically set aside for school libraries. School librarians, upset by the move, say it will leave poor schools vulnerable.

“I’m shocked,” Cassandra Barnett, president of the American Assn. of School Librarians, told School Library Journal.

“[Obama] is proposing to take away the last access to literacy for these kids in high-poverty areas,” says Barnett, whose own school qualifies for the grant program. If Congress approves the proposal, Barnett’s says her library budget will suffer and her district won’t rehire a library supervisor as planned.

Federal funding for libraries has been frozen at this year's levels -- as has most other non-security discretionary spending. Obama promises to keep the freeze in place for three years.

Library Journal reports that three bright spots for libraries are funds set aside for expanded broadband, the jobs for Main Street plan and increased funding for leadership grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This is happening as state and local governments are also looking to close budgets as revenues decline. The City of Los Angeles faces a budget shortfall of $212 million this year and one of $484 million or more in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Libraries may be confronted with tightening budgets from funders on all sides.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Shoshone Hue at Los Angeles' Helen Bernstein High School library in 2008. Credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times

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