Trump Is Coming After Libraries, Tell Your Congressmember to Stop Him! (IMLS is important!)

Oleg Kagan
Mar 5, 2018 · 3 min read

There are a lot of political issues about which I have opinions, but do not write about publicly, but this is the second year in a row that Donald Trump and his administration have called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and I am sick and tired of that it!

While I’ve stopped paying attention to the President’s disgraceful shrieking on Twitter, I will not ignore his proposed cuts to an organization that supports the very survival of rural and Native American libraries, programs for children, training for librarians, vital archival research, digitization efforts for important cultural resources, and much more. As a service-minded, liberty-loving, ally of equal opportunities for “…your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, I call foul! And you know who else should call foul? Our Senators and Representatives!

When the President proposes to slash the little funding that goes towards services benefiting a great many Americans (like those that IMLS funds), our elected officials need to step in and do something about it. And quickly!

As Margaret Heller wrote in her timely defense of IMLS: “As federal agencies go, IMLS is not all that well funded to begin with. Its fiscal 2017 appropriation was $231 million — that’s about .006 percent of the federal budget, so cutting it is like balancing your annual household budget by cutting out one cup of coffee for the year. And it’s not the only agency that supports art, learning, and culture that is slated for elimination.”

This nickel-and-diming of important federal organizations that serve the many is only a precursor. If we don’t stand up for the little guys NOW, we’ll soon be saying goodbye to larger agencies, too. Those that protect our environment, our healthcare, and our freedom will not be immune to Trump’s selfish whims.

Now, I’m not just angry about nothing here. I’m talking about eliminating a $231 million dollar agency that serves a great many taxpayers. But I really, really want to put this in perspective just to demonstrate how ludicrous funding priorities are getting: A years-worth of funding for IMLS is less than the cost of a single F-22 jet fighter. Again: One jet fighter. ONE! Yes, that’s an outlier when it comes to overpriced military gadgets, but considering that proposed funding for our military (which is already the highest in the world by a monstrous margin), it’s not at all surprising.

Don’t get me wrong, the military is important, but take a look at the Department of Defense budget request for FY2019 (pg 33): “The Budget requests $686 billion for DOD, an $80 billion or 13-percent increase from the 2017 enacted level. This includes $597 billion for the base budget, and $89 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.” (my highlighting). So we can increase the DOD budget by $80,000,000,000 but there’s not enough for the Institute of Museum and Library Services? I’m not great at math, but that is some awkward accounting.

Numbers aside, libraries are institutions I love! They are important as a symbol and because of the affect they have on the people they serve. IMLS is a federal government organization that aids libraries by assisting them to directly help communities all over the country. So while I don’t usually delve into political issues publicly, I see it as a moral imperative to say something about this. But writing is not enough. My emails have been sent, now you take a quick minute to go to the EveryLibrary website and send an email to your representatives encouraging them to fight for our libraries! Let’s save IMLS!

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Oleg Kagan

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Writer and librarian. More at


Stories about libraries and librarians around America. We cover the breadth of experiences that people have through their libraries, and showcase the amazing people who work there.

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