ARRA Funding and School Libraries
- By Christine Beitenhaus
- March 1st, 2009
Our current economic climate has affected numerous areas in education, including libraries. Districts have less money to go around, but their libraries may find some relief through money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These funds could help schools avoid cutbacks and layoffs, as well as contribute to library modernization.
Melanie Anderson, associate director of the ALA Office of Government Relations, discusses the challenges school libraries are facing at the moment. She explains, “Right now, funding, I think, is the top of everyone’s list. With limited funding and increased focus, I think, on school performance, administrators at all levels are trying to stretch dollars as far as they can go and are cutting funds to various programs.”
Schools are seeing the need to ensure that they have the resources they need geared toward increasing academic achievement, first.
But, Anderson notes, ARRA funds may benefit schools in supporting the idea “that education is not exclusive to the classroom, that it extends to school libraries.”
She continues, “Even President Obama has stated frequently that to give students a fair shot at thriving in a global economy that they need to equip schools, community colleges, and universities with 21st-century classrooms, labs, and libraries.” Presidential support may help K-12 schools in their push for funds to create programs that reflect this notion.
One of the largest ways, Anderson explains, for school libraries to benefit from ARRA funds is through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. “There’s $53.6B for education. That includes money for modernization purposes.”
Money for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund will not be easy to get, though. “It is very flexible, and they [school libraries] are in charge of making sure that their governors understand that the money can be spent on the libraries.”
Along the modernization lines, there is also $7.2B in the bill for broadband.
“School libraries can also benefit from some other programs,” Anderson includes. The stimulus package has $13B in Title I funding and $650M for the Enhancing Education Through Technology state grant program.
Anderson also stresses that the funding is one time only. “There is a use-it-or-lost-it provision in the stimulus package,” she states. “Basically, the governors have a year to two years, depending on the program, to spend the funds.”
To help school libraries gain access to the funds, the ALA suggests officials create needs lists to give to their administrators, their local elected officials, their state superintendents, and their governors who make the decisions about how to spend the money.
For those interested in finding more information about how they can help their libraries, Anderson offers the ALA’s new Website, www.ala.org/knowyourstimulus, created to get out information on the stimulus package. “We put up all the most recent information that the federal government has put out on the package, including grant announcements and new regulations.”
In the end, Anderson stresses the importance of contacting state and local officials. “It’s so critical that librarians reach out to their state and local officials because the funding that is available is very flexible, and it won’t be handed to them unless they make the case to spend the funding on the libraries.”