Arlington Public Library Public Access Rule Changes Public access to public libraries and schools is under threat from a new rule change by Congress that has some advocates worried about how to keep libraries open.
In a letter sent to the Library and Information Science Association, the American Library Association (ALA) and American Library Associations Association (ALTA) urged Congress to “ensure that public access to libraries and educational services remains a basic human right and that its preservation is protected.”
The new rule requires library patrons to pay an “administrative fee” of $25 per library per calendar year, or $250 per library in the entire year.
The $25 administrative fee applies to books, pamphlets, DVDs, CDs, audio CDs, and video CDs, as well as non-text books, ebooks, and magazines.
This fee is calculated by the library using the library’s percentage of its sales.
The library’s gross revenue from the books and other material must equal its book sales.
However, libraries do not have to make a profit on any of the books sold, nor do they have to sell all of their materials to patrons.
Libraries also do not need to maintain a library branch or make any improvements to their premises or grounds.
Al Jazeera and the Associated Press are reporting that the bill passed the House in 2017, but stalled in the Senate.
The House’s version of the Public Access and Digital Economy Act would require library patrons who want to visit public libraries to pay a $25 administration fee for each library book, pamphlet, DVD, or CD they purchase.
Library patrons also must pay $50 per calendar month to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which helps fund libraries, and $200 per month to Public Library Associates, which runs the libraries and supports libraries.
Library patrons also would be required to pay $20 per calendar calendar year to the U.S. Department of Education.
Libraries are currently limited to certain materials, such as video, audio, and digital content.
The ALA and the American Libraries Association (ALS) wrote that the Public Library Access Rule is a “direct assault on public access and access to information, particularly the most vulnerable in our society.”
The ALAS noted that the rule “will result in significantly higher administrative costs for libraries, especially for those who are most vulnerable, including low-income and elderly patrons, women, and people of color.”
In addition to higher administrative fees, ALA President and CEO Ellen Pao wrote that libraries “will have to invest billions of dollars to maintain the quality and security of their systems and libraries, which will also result in reduced access to services and information, and a loss of library access for the many people who have been denied access to these vital services by the Library of Congress.”
“If libraries continue to fail to provide safe and accessible access to their patrons, we must make sure that all Americans can access their libraries at the same time,” Pao said in a statement.
“We will work with Congress to pass this bill so that library patrons can access libraries and other educational resources safely and securely.”
Alaska Libraries says the Public Libraries Improvement Act of 2017 (PLIA) would protect libraries from having to make financial decisions on whether to accept or deny library patrons, and “increase access to educational materials and services.”
According to the ALA, PLIA would also “protect libraries from the financial risks of failing to maintain libraries, by requiring that libraries make a financial commitment to provide library services for the cost of materials.”
The law would also require library boards to develop a policy that would “ensuring that libraries maintain and improve their facilities to ensure that library materials are accessible to patrons, regardless of ability to pay for them.”
ALAS President and COO Amy McManus added that libraries will also be able to “offer libraries and libraries the ability to sell and rent their collections to anyone who can afford to pay.”
“We can’t do it without the support of libraries and their patrons,” McManuses said.
“The public should not have access to a library or to access libraries in ways that make it harder for us to meet our mission of educating people, serving the public, and making our communities a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Pao also wrote in a letter to lawmakers that “our libraries are already underfunded, and understaffed, and are currently being shuttered, reduced, or closed to save money, and this law would make it even harder for libraries to keep their libraries open and operate.”
Currently, about 25% of libraries have to close annually because of budget cuts, and the National Association of County Supervisors (NACOS) reports that libraries have lost $2.3 billion in annual revenue.
The NACOS reports that “library closures have disproportionately impacted people of colour, people with disabilities, and families of color