Last night, the Trump administration released its new budget blueprint, an advisory document that proposes increases in spending to military programs and national security, coupled with major decreases to—or the complete elimination of—many programs supporting scientific data and research, human health, and environmental safety; social uplift, education, and protection for the poor; international diplomacy, cooperation, and aid; and the arts, culture, history, and museum and library services. The House and Senate will now begin offering their own budget resolutions, and a long process of negotiation—informed by the will of the people, as expressed to our elected representatives—will ultimately result in Appropriations committee legislation setting funding levels for agencies and offices germane to the goals of the Digital Library Federation and its mission to “advance research, learning, social justice, and the public good.”
These include—among many others—agencies and offices whose federal budgets the Trump administration proposes to eliminate entirely: the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports NPR and PBS), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the US Institute of Peace, the Appalachian Regional Commission—and of course the IMLS, the Institute of Museum and Library Services. IMLS not only supports academic library and information science R&D programs that contribute to the development of a coherent and utterly necessary national digital platform; it also supports public programming and education in our nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums—themselves vulnerable to future budget cuts. Future reductions may also be proposed to the budgets of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and other federally-funded keepers of records, culture, and national memory.
Program officers and staff of public service organizations like these are prohibited by the federal Hatch Act of 1939 from engaging in some forms of political activity, thus curtailing their ability to advocate fully for the agencies to which they have devoted so much, while serving as agency representatives. The DLF community must represent them, and—in our support for the myriad ways these agencies serve us—we raise our voices to represent the communities and publics we serve together.
Last month, in a national climate of growing division and rising fear, the DLF and its parent organization, CLIR, offered a statement outlining our community’s enduring values and our own “Deepening Resolve.” I spend my every day in awe of the imagination, drive, compassion, and expertise of DLF practitioners. I know the people who make up our working groups and who staff our member institutions are resolute in their understanding of the power of digital libraries to serve—as we put it in the statement—”individuals and institutions that are both stalwart and vulnerable, people living now and generations yet to come.” The DLF community strives to build usable, welcoming, and respectful knowledge representation systems that embody “our shared, core values of enlightened liberalism and scientific understanding,” help us understand the past and imagine better futures, and advance “our mission to create just, equitable, and sustained global cultures of accessible information.”
These are lofty goals. Like all things, they start in the local, the embodied, the world near to you.
Regardless of your party affiliation or political creed (and in the understanding that diversity of thought is among our community’s great strengths)—if you share my concern about aspects of the current administration’s budget proposal and vision for libraries, research data, and cultural heritage in the digital age, I urge you to contact your representatives and make your views known. Finally, I remind you that the DLF has very consciously redoubled its efforts to function as a flexible, pragmatic, and supportive framework for grassroots efforts of all kinds, relevant to our field. DLF members and non-members alike are invited to use us as a platform for effective community organizing. We are here for you, and for the futures you want to build.
—Bethany Nowviskie, Director of the DLF (writing quickly and alone; Team CLIR/DLF and DLF Advisory Committee endorsements, additions, or productive dissent may yet come)
[Edited to add: This statement has received the endorsement of DLF team members, CLIR staff and leadership, and of the Advisory Committee of the Digital Library Federation. 17 March 2017]