Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Lies Ahead (for libraries, at least)

(My husband thinks this post needs a trigger warning for general despair, so FYI.)

It’s December, which means I’m grading final projects, cleaning up my office, wrapping holiday presents, reading for a book committee, etc.

This year, I find myself nostalgic for a reality that no longer exists after November 8, 2016. (And, for the record, parts of that reality were pretty awful as well.) As more and more news comes out about the role Russia played in the election, potential Cabinet picks, and the PEOTUS’ fundamental unfitness for office, the more important it becomes for each of us to have a reckoning with what lies ahead.

People far more knowledgeable than I am about kleptocracies, fascism, and authoritarianism are hard at work these days, and I encourage you to check them out (just look at who I’m retweeting these days). This post will be focused solely on the potential financial impacts to libraries in the upcoming administration. While I would love to believe that something (anything) could keep his inauguration from happening, I don’t think we should kid ourselves.

1)      Prepare for the worst for school libraries. Since they are already often the first thing on the chopping block in an age where other “extras” like music and arts education have long since been gutted, school librarians will likely be one of the first things to go when changes start coming through from whatever remains from US Department of Education.

2)      It may take a while, but expect disastrous cuts to public libraries (and state libraries), especially those most dependent on IMLS funding (as opposed to local funding). Look at what has happened in recent years to public and state libraries in Kansas and Louisiana as an example. In an extra-special, knife-in-the-gut twist, the same Kansas libraries Governor Brownback financially decimated can apply for tiny little grants (from corporate & private sponsors of course) that First Lady Brownback doles out as part of the Kansas Book Festival.

3)      Academic libraries in many places are already suffering, as we have seen a gradual depletion in state support over the last decade. Factor in potential changes to federal student loan programs, DACA, etc., and the impact could be detrimental for academic libraries. (And this isn’t even looking at the threats by certain Republican governors to cut state funding to campuses that designate themselves as sanctuaries.)

So, there you have it, all laid out. This is without even scratching the surface of an uptick in book challenges, fears of retribution for saying anything negative about the government (which, I’ll remind you, is already a part of the reality here in Kansas due to this lovely Social Media Policy), growing backlash toward marginalized groups, shit like the screed the New York Post ran today (I’m not linking to it), etc.

This is not business as usual (regardless of what the mothership would have us think). Prepare accordingly.

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