President Trump's budget would cut funding for libraries

WEAR - Public Libraries could take a hit if Trump's budget is approved

Public libraries take a big hit in the President's proposed budget for next year. Federal funding for libraries is all but eliminated, by dissolving an agency called the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Local libraries provide access to information, whether it's bound in paper or electronic and limitless. And anyone can walk in and get it for free. Vicky Stever is the director of the Okaloosa County Library Cooperative. She said, "We are that equalizer for the public. We bring quality public education to everyone regardless of your age or your background or your means."

The institute for Museum and Library Services gave $155 million to libraries across the country last year, through grants to states. Stever said the idea it could be eliminated is hard to accept. She continued, "It sends such a bad message that we say on a federal level in our country we don't value education, and we don't value learning because we think this is not worth funding."

Stever said it's not just the federal funds that libraries stand to lose. To get those dollars, states have to put in their own money. Without the incentive of the federal grants, she fears state funding will be cut as well.

We met with Stever at the Mary Esther Public Library. The building contains an area called the Early Literacy Station. It contains computers and software that help teach children not only the mechanics of reading but the joy of it. Some of the equipment was purchased with grants that trace back to IMLS.

We also met Ronnell Barbour of Valparaiso at the library. He stops in often and disagrees with any funding cuts. He said, "I consider the library my second home. It's very beneficial you know, for all of us, especially people who don't have internet access."

A study by the Haas Center showed each dollar invested in libraries created more than ten dollars in economic return. And 90 percent of people consider their local library an essential service, like a school.

The proposed budget would also eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Altogether, those cuts would trim $971 million in 2018.