Library commission highlights funding available for infrastructure improvements
by Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
The Idaho Commission for Libraries presented its budget request to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday morning, highlighting federal funding available for infrastructure upgrades needed at libraries across Idaho and responding to ongoing concerns about whether minor students can access obscene materials.
State Librarian Stephanie Bailey-White presented the commission’s budget request, pointing to millions in one-time federal funds available for certain construction and digital improvements. This is the last year these funds are available, Bailey-White told the committee.
The commission’s budget request includes:
- $1.25 million in federal ESSER funds, including $561,000 utilized for 95 grants for public and school libraries for after-school and summer programs;
- $564,000 in federal funding for the Digital Access for All Idahoans program;
- Up to $1.75 million in federal funds for a Digital Access Implementation Grant to expand connectivity in rural Idaho;
- $3.5 million in one-time ARPA dollars for one-time grants that will allow about 23 libraries to fund construction and digital infrastructure upgrades;
- $40,000 in ongoing general funds to supplement Kindergarten Readiness sub-grants to libraries, which fund early learning groups and workshops and training for staff, and;
- $6,000 for virtual hard drive storage for recordings for the Idaho Talking Book Service.
Though most of the funds in the request are federal, the joint budget committee must still grant spending authority for the commission and other state agencies to access those funds. During Monday’s presentation, the commission highlighted libraries that could potentially benefit from the construction grants, including a 16-person capacity library in Donnelly that provides after-school care and educational programs for students. Currently, the library utilizes two outdoor tipis to expand its learning space.
Last year, the legislature sliced the $3.5 million in ARPA funding from the commission’s original request after concerns that libraries were allowing children to check out inappropriate materials. That legislative debate preceded months of contentious library board hearings across the state.
In a callback to last year’s debates over library materials, Bailey-White fielded a couple questions on whether materials available to K-12 students meet the state’s obscenity laws. Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, said he had found books with critical race theory, foul language, and “transgender ideology” in the Idaho Digital E-Book Alliance, or IDEA.
IDEA makes its digital collection available to K-12 public schools, Bailey-White said, but not all titles are available through those partnerships. The commission conducts internal audits and has a collection development policy in place for schools that access IDEA, she said.
JFAC co-chair Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, thanked the library commission for changing its policies to comply with Idaho’s anti-obscenity laws.
JFAC members will soon begin setting budgets for Idaho’s state agencies and divisions. Those budgets must pass both the House and Senate.