Policy & Funding

Senate Committee Approves Libraries Bill

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted unanimously Thursday to send the Museum and Library Services Act to the Senate floor.

Despite President Donald Trump's desire to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee sent a loud signal to the Trump administration that the agency should remain operational with the unanimous approval of the Museum and Library Services Act Nov. 29.  The legislation reauthorizes the Library Services and Technology Act while making changes to modernize the agency.

The bill allows for grant funds to be used to help libraries prepare and provide services after a disaster or emergency. It also allows more Native American tribes to participate in IMLS programs and promotes the use of data-driven tools to measure the impact and minimize the impact and the effectiveness of library services. The legislation funds ILMS from fiscal years 2019 to 2023.

"I'm pleased that we were able to able to authorize the Museum and Libraries Services Act to help libraries and museums providing 21st century services to all our people and support the diversity of the library and museum workforce," said Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee. "This reauthorization comes after president Trump called to eliminate this agency in two budgets, but this committee recognized the important role that museums and libraries play to bring people together and strengthen literacy and civic participation."

In a statement, the American Libraries Association president Loida Garcia-Fobo expressed her appreciation for the comittee supporting for the legislation.

"Today's Senate HELP Committee approval of the Museum and Library Services Act brings us one step closer to a fresh commitment to our nation's 120,000 libraries. Libraries are hubs of lifelong learning," Garcia-Fobo said. "The programs supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services enable libraries to advance literacy of all kinds — including digital literacy — and spark innovation."

During the same meeting, the Senate HELP Committee approved the nomination of Robert L. King to become the assistant secretary for post-secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education in 12-11 vote.

"Mr. King is prepared to serve students, having effectively served in leadership roles at institutions of higher education, and has overseen postsecondary programs at the state level in Kentucky," said Senate Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in his prepared opening remarks.

Murray expressed her concerns about approving King's nomination without a full hearing in the Senate HELP Committee.

"If confirmed Mr. King would be the nation's most senior higher education appointee and will shape policies that impact more than $120 billion in federal financial aid disbursed each and $1.4 trillion in federal student loan portfolio and the 20 million students in our higher education system," Murray said. "it is imperative that the person in this position is strongly committed to putting the needs of students first. Unfortunately, in meetings with my staff, Mr. King made a number of troubling statements that he will further Sec. DeVos's anti-student agenda." 

King's nomination needs to be approved by the full Senate in order to be confirmed by the end of this year.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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