Want to borrow a book from another library? Federal budget cuts could stop you | St. Louis Public Radio

Want to borrow a book from another library? Federal budget cuts could stop you

May 31, 2017

Don't count on using an interlibrary loan service to get a book from outside your town or county in the future. Services like interlibrary loan may be at risk in the upcoming round of federal budget cuts.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget, released this week, would eliminate funding to the Institute of Library and Museum Sciences, a federal agency that provides significant funding to Missouri’s state, local, and county library systems.

The IMLS, which had a $230 million budget last year, helps local libraries try new projects, develop programs and maintain existing collaborative services.

“It’s a major concern for me," St. Charles County Library Executive Director Jim Brown said.  "It’s a major concern for the library community as a whole.”

The agency funds the Missouri State Library’s Library Services & Technology Act block grant program. Its grants fund an online database designed to facilitate interlibrary loan and the courier service that sends books from one library to another within two days. Missouri uses more than $500,000 in federal funds to do that.

IMLS funding also is used to develop library technologies, such as processes that digitize local newspaper archives and historical images, and to create special programs at local libraries. Without the funding, library services could be greatly diminished Brown said.

“It has a direct impact on our ability to provide services to the citizens of St. Charles County and that would be a true statement for people across the state of Missouri,” he said. “Public libraries use these resources to enhance and to, in some cases, offer programs and services that they might not otherwise be able to do.”

The St. Charles Library would lose its interlibrary loan services, and also funding that supports services like Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library programs that help the visually impaired.  IMLS funding also supports  the St. Charles County Library’s website and its mobile computer labs that serve people without access to computers.

Brown said the federal agency not only supports local libraries but ensures taxes collected from Missouri residents return to Missouri citizens. 

“We all are taxpayers and this is a way to help us bring those tax dollars that we send off to Washington back to the state of Missouri to support programs and services for the citizens of the state of Missouri,” he said.

Jefferson County Public Library Director Pam Klipsch said losing interlibrary loan capabilities would affect her library’s ability to provide patrons with the books they need.  In the 2015 fiscal year, the library borrowed more than 3,000 books for county residents.  

If the federal government defunds the IMLS, local libraries also would lose additional funding that matches the federal money.

Klipsch said Jefferson County combines $16,000 of federal Library Science and Technology Act funding distributed through the IMLS with $3,000 in locally raised funding to develop a new strategic plan to better serve the community.

The Jefferson County Public Library has also used some of that funding to upgrade technology, like projection systems in the library meetings rooms. 

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold