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A Budget for the Future

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Another busy day!

I spent this morning in a hearing at the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, during which Librarian of Congress James Billington and our Chief Operating Officer, Jo Ann Jenkins, testified on the Library’s budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2008, which begins Oct. 1, 2007.

The Librarian discussed requests including funding to cover mandatory pay raises and price increases; a new Logistics Center at Fort Meade, Md., to address “life-safety and environmental conditions” at the Library’s current center in Landover, Md.; implementation of the Digital Talking Books program at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; and restoration of a portion of the funds that were rescinded from the Library’s national digital preservation program, known as “NDIIPP”.

The priorities were also stated March 22 before the Senate committee’s counterpart in the House.

If you’d like to learn more about the Library’s budget, after the jump I have included the full text of a story on the March 22 House hearing from the Library’s “Gazette,” which is our snazzy in-house newsletter that normally resides behind a firewall. (If you’re curious why it’s firewalled, then you might ask how many among you are really interested in esoterica such as Metrochek distribution.)

By the way, one of the reasons for the blog is to make some of our in-house content more publicly available. To wit, the budget story follows …

House Eyes 2008 Priorities in ‘Tight’ Budget

The Library’s March 22 appeal to the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee to restore some funding that was lost in 2007 and to fund some essential new programs was met with sympathy but also the reminder that the Library would have to make some tough spending choices for fiscal 2008.

“We are in a very tight budget situation,â€? said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., in her remarks that opened the second of two appropriations hearings for the Library last week in H-144 of the Capitol. “We need to know what your must-have priorities are.â€?

The Library’s 2008 budget request totals $703.3 million, including authority to spend $41.7 million in receipts. Representing an increase of $99.7 million (16.5 percent) over the fiscal year 2007 base appropriation (which was a continuation of the fiscal 2006 funding level), this proposed 2008 budget would support a total 4,244 full-time employees (FTEs), which is a net decrease of 58 below the current authorized level.

This budget request would provide $467 million (2,888 FTEs) in a category of salaries and expenses to support Library operations generally; $52 million (523 FTEs) for the Copyright Office; $109 million (705 FTEs) for the Congressional Research Service; and $76 million (128 FTEs) for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Each has its own spending authority.

Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Zack Wamp, R-Tenn., ranking minority member of the subcommittee, both expressed their support of the Library and their goal of working on a bipartisan basis to craft a Library budget recommendation to the full House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., attended and asked questions about the Open World Program to nurture democratic institutions in independent states formerly in the Soviet Union (“I’m 1,000 percent behind this programâ€?), which is a separate agency with its own separate budget but is housed in the Library. Reps. C.A. “Dutchâ€? Ruppersberger, D-Md., Mike Honda, D-Calif., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., attended the hearing but did not ask questions.

“You and I both support the Library,â€? Wamp said to Wasserman Schultz in his opening remarks. “I hope we can work together in the ‘08 request to try to make whole the agencies that were impacted by the ‘07 continuing resolution.â€?

In place of a fiscal 2007 budget that grew from the 2006 funding level, as has been the past practice for decades, the 2007 continuing resolution approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president in February gave the Library a 2007 budget total of $600.4 million, comprising a net appropriation of $558.3 million plus authorization to spend $42.1 million in offsetting collections, such as fees for copyright registration. This amount reflected a net decrease of $3.2 million from the fiscal 2006 authorized level and $28 million less than the Library requested for 2007. An accompanying rescission cut an additional $49.5 million in unobligated funds from the Library — $47 million that had been appropriated for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), $695,384 from a restoration and renovation fund for the Jefferson and Adams buildings and $1.9 million from a development fund for the Integrated Library System. The Library has asked Congress to restore $21.5 million of the $47 million rescinded from NDIIPP.

Saying that “both (political) parties were responsible,â€? Wamp added: “I am greatly concerned about the impacts caused by the continuing resolution from ‘07. . . . There are casualties as the result of this continuing resolution — [the] $47 million in rescission for the Library of Congress has caused us to begin the process of evaluating your future fiscally and the ‘08 budget request in a different light. The $21.5 million that we really need to make the Library of Congress whole as we move forward is very important.â€?

Library Priorities for 2008

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington thanked the subcommittee members for their support expressed at a digital futures hearing two days before, on March 20, and presented a brief oral statement in support of the “critical prioritiesâ€? he indicated are necessary to sustain the Library. The informing function of the Library is essential to the democratic process envisioned by the founders, among them Thomas Jefferson whose personal, diverse collection formed the core of Congress’s first library.

“The Library of Congress is the world’s largest and most diverse collection of knowledge and the mint record of American creativity— and in many ways the strategic information reserve of the United States,â€? the Librarian said. “Our mission is to collect, preserve and provide for Congress and the American people useful access to our unparalleled human and information resources.â€?

“I treasure the Library, but I have some questions,â€? Wasserman Schultz said after the Librarian laid out the following spending priorities for fiscal 2008.

Mandatory Pay and Price Level Increases: The Librarian said the Library’s first priority is to sustain the current level of services by funding mandatory pay and unavoidable price increases.

Detailed in the Librarian’s written statement submitted for the hearing record, the request for an additional $45.9 million would support the annualization of across-the-board pay raises in fiscal 2006, 2007 and 2008, and within-grade increases and price increases for the period 2007-08.

“These funds are needed simply to sustain current business operations and to prevent a reduction in staff that would severely affect the Library’s ability to manage its programs in support of its mission and strategic objectives,â€? Billington said in his written statement.

The Librarian also requested $2 million for one unfunded mandate — that of contributing to a Department of State capital-security, cost-sharing program.

Materials Acquisitions: Another urgent priority, he said, are the Library’s acquisitions, “which have not kept pace with the ever-growing body of publications worldwide, let alone with the exploding world of digital knowledge.â€?

The Library requested $2 million that would bring the total base adjustment up to the $3.3 million of the $4.2 million sought for acquisitions over a multiyear period. “Funding is needed to help keep pace with the greatly increased cost of serial and electronic materials that risks eroding the comprehensiveness and value of the Library’s collections,â€? he argued in his written statement.

The Librarian explained in his written statement that advances in technology had opened opportunities to acquire primary-source materials from parts of the world to which the Library had little access previously. “National interest, especially with respect to security and trade, dictates that we acquire emerging electronic publications and other difficult-to-find resources that document other cultures and nations,â€? he said.

Restoration of NDIIPP Funds: Billington explained that when the $47 million was rescinded from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program in 2007, the Library lost not only almost half of its 2001 appropriation of $100 million for this program, but also an additional $37 million in matching funds already committed to important projects by NDIIPP’s current and proposed digital-preservation partners. “A total $84 million has been lost,â€? he said. (NDIIPP legislation requires that organizations that receive NDIIPP awards match the funding with in-kind donations.)

The Library, NDIIPP and its nationwide network of partners from the public and private sectors are leading a national effort to select and preserve critical digital content, including that found on the Web — content that exists only in digital form and that is in danger of being lost. Although 93 percent of all information created today exists only in digital format, the average Web site exists only 44 to 75 days before disappearing from the Internet forever.

“At risk,â€? Billington said in his written statement, “is not only the work of partners across the nation but essential infrastructure and content for the Library’s mission to serve Congress.â€? For example, the Library and NDIIPP are collaborating with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Stanford University to lead an eight-library effort to build a National Geospatial Digital Archive to collect and preserve cartographic imagery from satellites, which can chart hurricane activity and damage, global environmental changes, land uses and the location and condition of power infrastructure. Federal and state policy-makers can use this data to plan and coordinate disaster relief, manage land use and formulate power, transportation and environmental policies, for example. National security interests are served by the collection and preservation of foreign broadcasts, such as those by Al-Jazeera, and Web sites used by terrorists for recruiting and communicating their activities.

The Librarian asked the subcommittee to restore at least partial funding so that NDIIPP will not have to abandon such critical information-saving projects that are underway. “We are adding to the FY 2008 budget an urgent request to restore $21.5 million to allow the NDIIPP program to pursue its groundbreaking work, to restore trust among our 67 partners, and to guarantee that future members of Congress will have the vital policy-making information they will need in the digital world,â€? he said.

Later, during a question-and-answer session, Wamp asked how the Library would spend this $21.5 million if it were returned. Billington replied that all of the funds would be used to continue building and supporting the NDIIPP network of partners who are sharing the costs of digital-preservation research as well as pioneering projects to capture, preserve and archive born-digital materials for use by Congress and the public.

Specifically, the Librarian said, funds would be used for four regional demonstration projects in 35 states, which would preserve geospatial, legislative, court and agency records that exist primarily in digital form. He and Laura Campbell, associate librarian, Office of Strategic Services, which leads NDIIPP, also mentioned a collaborative mass digital-archiving project in partnership with the University of California at San Diego and collaboration with Stanford University to take advantage of its world-renowned computer science and engineering resources to find solutions for intelligent searching and technical infrastructure for digital libraries.

New Funds for Digital Talking Books: The Librarian also advocated congressional support of another priority, a $19.1 million request by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to begin financing a four-year Digital Talking Book Program to replace soon-to-be-obsolete analog cassette players with playback machines that will play digital audio books on flash-memory cartridges. This four-year initiative is expected to cost $76.4 million in all.

As representatives of the National Federation of the Blind, including its president Marc Maurer, occupied several seats in the small hearing room and packed the hallway outside, the Librarian said: “The blind read more than other people, and they must have access to this extremely important historic program.â€? He said the program serves some 700,000 NLS patrons.

NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke added that nearly 17 years of planning and research have gone into choosing the digital technology that will replace analog cassette book machines that ceased production on Feb. 17. “Cassette technology is archaic, and supplies are becoming difficult to obtain. We have produced our last cassette machine,â€? Cylke said.

“We embarked on this program in the 1990s, explored all sorts of approaches and settled on the flash-memory approach,â€? he continued. With no moving parts and long-lasting cartridges, these machines will be less expensive to maintain than the tape cassette players, he said.

“We really, truly need this money to carry us through the next four to five years,â€? Cylke said, adding that NLS had asked for “no significant increase for the past five or six years.â€?

Wasserman Schultz and Wamp both expressed support of the Talking Book Program, but she later raised the issue of the decine over the past decade of 146,000 talking-book subscibers, with a projected decrease to fewer than 300,000 by 2011. She questioned the need to purchase some 590,000 new digital talking book machines if there are fewer subscribers.

Cylke said her user statistics, which were contained in a March Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that the Library is responding to point by point, were incorrect. According to the GAO, the number of talking book subscribers decreased from 580,000 in fiscal 1996 to 434,000 in fiscal 2005. Cylke said that the number of “active readersâ€? increased by 68,352 over 10 years, from 663,108 in 1996 to 731,460 in 2006.

Wasserman Schultz said a commercial talking-book is “coming onlineâ€? soon and she wondered why it is necessary to pursue a customized digital talking book system. Cylke responded that the only flash-memory digital talking book machine that may become available commercially is too sophisticated for many blind patrons to use easily. Furthermore, he said, NLS will, as it always has, supply audio book content at no charge to subscribers.

“I wanted to raise it because, as I said at the outset, I am totally supportive of this program, but we are operating in a tight budget environment and we are going to have resource decisions to make, and obviously for a program that is perhaps declining in usage . . . the value has to be weighed in accordance with the facts,â€? the subcommittee chairwoman said, closing this part of the discussion.

Fort Meade Logistics Center: The Librarian requested $43.9 million for transfer from the Library’s budget to the fiscal 2008 budget of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) for construction of a logistics center at Fort Meade. A larger request for the same project was rejected last year and was not included in the AOC’s proposed 2008 budget for capital improvement projects for the Library.

The proposed 162,000-square-foot, environmentally controlled, secure facility would support the Library’s day-to-day mission-critical operating requirements, such as the need for space to receive and inventory all of the Library’s ordered equipment, furnishings and supplies before delivering them to Library offices. The new facility would save the Library some $3 million a year by consolidating storage, inventory and supply space from multiple leased facilities.

“The deplorable life-safety and environmental conditions at our present Landover Center [in Maryland] pose increasing risk to both staff and collections,â€? Billington argued. “This environmentally controlled facility will support the Library’s long-range storage and inventory requirements more securely and less expensively than alternatives that have been extensively evaluated.â€?

Noting that the Librarian was requesting that these funds be allocated to the Library for transfer to the AOC budget, Wasserman Schultz asked: “Were you concerned that the Architect of the Capitol wouldn’t prioritize it the way it needed to be?â€?

“Well, yes,â€? answered the Librarian.

Wasserman Schultz turned to Wamp and said: “This is another example of one of the questions for the Architect about the prioritization process they went through. . . . When I asked him point blank if he would take projects that were life-safety related and security related, but that were below the cut, and say did he think they had a lower priority than some of the nonlife-safety requests that ranked above the cut, he said, no, he would fund the life-safety projects first.

“And so it’s incredibly frustrating that you have a $44 million request in a budget that is already impacted and you have to reduce your request to fund a life-safety project that should be in the Architect’s capital budget,â€? she told the Librarian, adding, “I do not want to see Library of Congress programs in the budget reduced because we have not second-guessed the Architect on priorities.â€?

Not part of this discussion was the Library’s support of $42.8 million in the AOC’s proposed 2008 budget for structural and mechanical care and maintenance of Library buildings and grounds; many of these costs are related to the health, safety and security of the staff as well as care and security of the collections.

Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition: The Library has requested $1.4 million in fiscal 2008, with three-year authority, for a traveling Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition that would be the centerpiece of a 2009 nationwide celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. “The exhibition will be quite stunningâ€? and will be based on Lincoln documents and related Civil War materials from the Library’s archives as well as other sources, Billington said.

Representative LaHood, co-chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission that is planning the national 2009 celebration of Lincoln’s birth, asked about a document-digitization project of the Library and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., which has gathered papers from Lincoln’s Illinois law practice. The Librarian said the Library staff is producing higher-resolution images of the Library’s 30,000 Lincoln documents that were digitized previously and made available online through the American Memory program. These will be made available to the Springfield library.

Other Spending Requests

Although they were not discussed at the March 22 appropriations hearing, other requests in the Library’s proposed 2008 budget included:

— $13.6 million (reflecting a net decrease of $1.4 million and five FTEs from the base) to continue purchasing equipment and providing operations support for the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) in Culpeper, Va. Fiscal 2008 is the fifth year in the Library’s five-year cost model to support the facility that the Packard Humanities Institute has designed and built for the Library. The completed facility will be transferred to the U.S. government this year and staff relocations will begin in May.

— $1.2 million to maintain the Law Library’s Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a multinational legal database. These funds would cover costs such as software licensing and upgrades, system hosting, technology refreshment, content expansion and membership recruitment.

— $1 million for the first year of a six-year, $6 million project to digitize 70 million pages of pre-1978 public copyright records that are deteriorating.

— $1.2 million for the one-time purchase and storage of NIOSH-approved escape hoods for Library contractors, researchers and other visitors.

—$276,000 to support a workforce transformation project to retrain staff with the necessary skills in the digital age and to capture the knowledge of veteran staff members facing retirement.

Personnel Matters

Union Time Sheets: Wasserman Schultz asked Chief Operating Officer Jo Ann Jenkins about the level of detail that the Library is asking its labor unions to include in union officials’ time reports.

“What we are asking the unions to do is based on common agency practices and a recommendation from our inspector general that we ask our unions to report — and it is required in their union agreements — the time that they spend on union activities,â€? Jenkins said. She emphasized the Library does not ask with whom union representatives are meeting or the subjects of discussion.

Jenkins said two unions have agreed to comply with this request, a third union is expected to reach a mutual agreement with the Library, and a fourth, AFCSME Local 2910 (the Guild), has not complied. “We have gone to arbitrators and mediation to resolve it,â€? Jenkins said of negotiations with the Guild.

In response to questioning by the panel chairwoman, Jenkins said Library employees acting in their capacity as union representatives are paid for 40 hours a week and they need to be accountable for the time they spend doing either union work or Library work. The Library does not dock their pay for not doing Library work, she said.

In that case, Wasserman Schultz asserted, she “could think of no reason other than intimidationâ€? to require union members to track their time on time sheets. “What is the public-policy reason for having a specific detailed sheet if you’re not using it for something; for what purpose is that?â€?

Jenkins argued that if a union representative is not spending all 40 hours a week on union business, then that employee’s supervisor should know and assign Library work for the time not being spent on union business.

Reduction in Force: In other personnel matters, Wasserman Schultz asked for a discussion of the process that the Library’s Human Resources Services followed in implementing a reduction in force (RIF) to place 29 Congressional Research Service (CRS) employees.

“I am pleased to report on the success of the Library of Congress’s actions to place in positions 29 Congressional Research Service employees affected by a reduction in force,â€? Jenkins said in a recent letter to Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, chairwoman of the Committee on House Administration. “I am pleased that the Library was able to conclude this reduction in force while assuring continued employment of impacted staff and cost continuity.â€?

In September 2005, CRS officials told 59 employees that their jobs — mostly in production support, technical support assistance and audiovisual work — would be eliminated by the end of September 2006. Thirty of those employees found other jobs or took buyouts or early retirement incentives. The remaining 29 employees, who were notified that the RIF would begin on June 29, 2006, got other Library jobs through the RIF process.

HRS first froze hiring actions in the affected job series, and 15 of the 29 affected employees accepted offers of equal-grade positions for which they qualified. According to HRS, there were no more vacant equal-grade jobs available. Another five people in the RIF accepted positions in lower-grade vacancies. They were assured pay and grade retention for two years and the potential to advance competitively to their former grade levels or higher. Of the 29 employees in the RIF, two competed for other equal-grade jobs in CRS and were selected, and two retired from federal service.

This left five employees who declined offers of lower-grade jobs and exercised their “bumping rightsâ€? under union agreements to claim occupied positions elsewhere in the Library at their current grade levels.

Each of the five employees “bumpedâ€? out of their jobs accepted offers of lower-grade positions. Each is assured grade and pay retention for two years, during which the employees will receive training and priority consideration for new positions at their original grade for which they qualify.

Police Force Shortage: The subcommittee chairwoman asked for an update on police staffing for the Library. Jenkins reported that the Library is short 20 officers; funding exists for 148 full-time employees, but only 128 positions have been filled. Of these, Library Police officers fill l00 positions and U.S. Capitol Police officers fill 28. (Under a mutual-understanding agreement with the Library, the U.S. Capitol Police has the authority to hire and train officers for the Library.)

In addition to filling these 20 vacancies, the Library has asked that six FTEs be restored to the 2008 budget and that 11 additional officers be hired to staff new entryways with the opening of a tunnel between the new Capitol Visitors Center and the Jefferson Building in 2008, when the Library expects a surge in visitors.

Noting the Library’s top priorities, including nearly $46 million for mandatory pay and price increases, restoration of at least $21.5 million rescinded from NDIIPP, $19 million for digital talking books and nearly $44 million for construction of the Fort Meade facility, Wasserman Schultz concluded: “At the end of the day, when we have to craft this budget, it will be a matter of priorities.

[tags]budget, blind, disabled, NLS, digital, NDIIPP, preservation, government, library of congress[/tags]

Comments (3)

  1. Though I knew that some NDIIPP Funds had been cut (and I wish you the best of luck in getting as much as possible restored) I had no idea that such a massive chunk of had been eliminated.

    And what a shame that the decision to do so resulted in the loss of such substantial matching funds.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to create and maintain this blog. Hopefully it will enable people like myself, who are interested in the LOC, follow these issues in a more timely manner.

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