JANESVILLE

A new law reauthorizing a small federal agency has earned praise from Hedberg Public Library Director Bryan McCormick.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services allocates about $180 million annually, and the funding that trickles down helps libraries such as Hedberg provide core services, including internet access and interlibrary loan programs, McCormick said.

“If you don’t have those, and we don’t have the money provided by the federal government for that, then that would fall back on the rest of us to come up with funds,” he said. “More than likely you’d have kind of like a domino effect where we got to put funds into that and then we can’t do other things.”

Reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services was one of the last bills approved by the House before the federal government shutdown started Dec. 22. President Donald Trump signed it into law Dec. 31.

The federal agency’s authorization lapsed in 2016. Authorization does not directly affect an organization’s funding or its operations, but unauthorized agencies are often at risk of being eliminated, said Kevin Maher, government relations deputy director for the American Library Association.

Reauthorization helps promote the organization and reaffirms its importance, he said.

Wisconsin received $2.8 million in 2018. The state matches half of those funds and controls how they are applied. Libraries often receive money for basic services and can apply for grants to finance expanded programs, such as homeless outreach services, Maher said.

McCormick said Hedberg has not applied for a grant in several years, but funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services covers the library’s internet bill and has helped digitize some historical materials.

McCormick wrote to former House Speaker Paul Ryan and copied Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson on the letter, encouraging the House to pass the bill after unanimous Senate approval.

Once the law passed, McCormick received a handful of thank-you notes from across the state, he said.

“Libraries are the great equalizer. Anyone can come in and use it. The resources are available to everyone,” he said. “It’s unfortunate not everyone realizes the value and impact a public library has on their community. But I felt it was very important to have this program, this support, to continue to do our mission.”

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