ARRA Funding and College and University Libraries

Our current economic climate has affected numerous areas in higher education, including libraries. Private donors may be giving less to institutions, and often states have less money to offer to institutions. College and university libraries may find some relief through money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These funds could help institutions avoid cutbacks and layoffs, as well as contribute to library modernization.

Melanie Anderson, associate director of the ALA Office of Government Relations, discussed the challenges postsecondary institution libraries are facing at the moment. She explained, “Right now, funding I think is the top of everyone’s list.” Limited funding means administrators will try to stretch what they have and cut various programs that aren’t deemed as necessary to the academic success of the institution and its students.

But, Anderson noted, ARRA funds may benefit colleges and universities in supporting the idea “that education is not exclusive to the classroom, that it extends to higher ed libraries.”

She continued, “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 colleges and universities in their push for funds to create programs that reflect this notion.

One of the largest ways, Anderson explained, for college and university 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 [university 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.

Anderson also stressed that the funding is one time only. “There is a use-it-or-lost-it provision in the stimulus package,” she stated. “Basically the governors have a year to two years, depending on the program, to spend the funds.”

To help college and university libraries gain access to the funds, the ALA suggests officials create needs lists to give to state and local-level officials 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 offered 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 stressed 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.”


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