NCC Advocacy Update, April 1997
Update on President Clinton's Fiscal 1998 Request for Cultural Agencies
The president has requested $136 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, a $26 million increase over its current funding level. For the National Archives, the president has proposed $206.48 million in operating expenses, approximately a 5 percent increase. However, the administration is recommending a 20 percent cut for the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC is currently funded at $5 million, and the administration has requested only $4 million.
For international programs, the president has requested $197.7 million for the United States Information Agency (USIA) Educational and Exchange Programs. Although this appears to be an increase over the current level of $185 million, it includes some salaries and administrative costs that were previously covered in other line items. Thus, as a result of the restructuring of the budget, the actual program funds for educational and exchange programs are down about 2 percent from the current level. The Fulbright Scholarly Exchange Program, which is part of the USIA Educational and Exchange Program's budget, is earmarked in fiscal 1998 for $94 million, down from the current level of $98 million, and a significant reduction from the $126 million in fiscal 1994. The Department of Education's Fulbright-Hays Program, which focuses on area studies and language, was funded in fiscal 1997 at $5.27 million and the president is requesting $5.77 million for fiscal 1998, a $500,000 increase.
On the historic preservation front, funding for the state historic preservation program would have a very slight increase under the president's proposal, rising from $29.394 million to $30.316 million. The president has recommended a $0.5 million increase for the National Trust for Historic Preservation to bring its budget up to $4 million. The largest increase in the president's historic preservation budget is for historically black colleges, which are currently receiving $1.4 million and are slated for $9 million in fiscal 1998.
The president has recommended $334.5 million for the operating expenses of the Smithsonian Institution, which is an increase over the current level of $317.5 million. The president's budget for the Smithsonian also includes $32 million for repairs and restoration of buildings and $58 million for construction. The major new construction project is the building of the National Museum of the American Indian, which will be located on the mall, east of the Air and Space Museum. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which is part of the Smithsonian, is slated for flat funding of $6 million in the president's budget.
For the Institute of Museum Service, the president has requested $26 million, a $4 million increase over the current level of $22 million. The president is recommending $136 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is currently funded at $99.5 million. Of all the cultural agencies, the NEA probably faces the hardest appropriations battle. A group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives are calling for zero funding in fiscal 1998 for the NEA.
Clinton Chooses Little Rock for Presidential Library
On February 12 President Clinton announced that the Clinton Presidential Library would be located in Little Rock and would be affiliated with the University of Arkansas. Skip Rutherford, an old Clinton friend and a Little Rock public relations executive, will coordinate the local planning for the library. Clinton has indicated that he hopes the library will employ the most advanced technology to make its holdings available to all Americans.
NHPRC Commissioners Vote Unanimously to Review Strategic Plan
At its February 20 meeting the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) voted unanimously to review at the June meeting the strategic plan that it had adopted at its November 1996 meeting and to delay the implementation of the November plan in the meantime.
The November plan, adopted by a divided vote, was originally to go into effect in 1999 and was to serve as the framework for guiding the commission in its allocation of grants. The November plan has only four categories of grantmaking, two in the top priority and two in the second priority. The two categories in the top-priority level are grants for states and grants for research and development projects, particularly these dealing with preservation of and access to electronic records. The second-priority categories are for documentary editions (an existing and future projects) and grants for preserving and making available document collections.
In January, the AHA and the Organization of American Historians passed resolutions requesting reconsideration of the plan. In addition, there was some critical press coverage of the plan and numerous letters from diverse constituents to the executive director of the NHPRC questioning aspects of the plan. The various expressions of concern stressed that the November strategic plan placed no historical documentary editions projects or nationally significant records projects in its first level of funding priorities, despite the fact that from the time NHPRC first began receiving grant funds, the editions have been central to its mission.
At the February meeting the NHPRC commission also put in place a process for providing an opportunity for constituent groups and interested people to comment on the plan. The resolution instructed the NHPRC staff to prepare a packet for distribution to interested organizations that will include background material and a series of questions that addresses the current and future status of the NHPRC's mandate and role. The resolution calls for responses to the questions by May 1 and authorizes the Executive Committee to meet in May to review the responses and forward them to the commission with such further recommendations as may be desirable for reviewing the plan.
Future of the Bound Editions of the Congressional Record and U.S. Congressional Serial Set
In an effort to reduce costs, Congress in fiscal 1997 directed the Government Printing Office (GPO) not to distribute bound Congressional Records to the Federal Depository Libraries. Rather, the GPO is to distribute paper copies of the Serial Set only to regional depository libraries and to one depository library in each state that has no regional depository library. The Serial Set is the permanent record of Senate and House documents, congressional committee reports, presidential and other executive publications, as well as treaty materials. Until last year, the 463 depository libraries in districts throughout the country received both paper-bound Serial Sets and the bound Congressional Record to provide permanent access to the work of Congress.
Also last year, Congress instructed the GPO to develop CD-ROM versions of the Congressional Record and the Serial Set. In testimony on February 11 before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations, Michael DiMario, the public printer, said that the GPO is developing plans to achieve this directive. However, he noted that depository librarians view these documents as essential reference resources and as core documents of our democracy that should be preserved in paper format for the free use of the public in every state. He also raised questions about the permanency of the CD-ROM format, from an archival media standpoint, as well as issues concerning computer hardware and software obsolescence.
Robert L. Oakley, director of the Law Library and professor of law at Georgetown University, also testified at this hearing on behalf of four major library associations—the American Association of Law Librarians, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Special Libraries Association. He identified as the two most critical concerns of the library community the public's ability to locate information that is distributed electronically and the fundamental need to guarantee that electronic government information will be permanently accessible. He urged the printing in paper format of both the Congressional Record and the Serial Set for distribution to all depository libraries.
Oakley also noted that the case has not been made for permanent electronic replacements that ensure long-term public access with the ability to migrate one technological platform to another.
Page Putnam Miller is director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.
Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.