By GAIL FINEBERG
A $21.3 million request to continue the pioneering work of the National Digital Library Program is part of a fiscal year 2001 Library budget that Dr. Billington presented to the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations on Jan. 27.
The Digital Futures Initiative also would give the Library the ability to capture, store and disseminate important digital materials that are created online and exist in no other format.
Dr. Billington told the subcommittee the Library has become the "leading provider of high-quality, free educational material in the revolutionary new world of the Internet."
Having demonstrated the value of the National Digital Library (NDL) Program, the Library now wants to begin building systematically "a new kind of 21st century library for all Americans -- the National On-line Library," he said.
Funds for this effort are included in the Library's proposed fiscal 2001 budget request, which Dr. Billington presented to the House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.). Other panel members are Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.).
For FY 2001, Dr. Billington requested a total of $428.1 million in net appropriations plus authority to spend an additional $33.6 million in receipts. The net increase requested represents an 11.4 percent increase from the FY 2000 net appropriation of $384.5 million, plus authority to spend $33.1 million in receipts. Of the requested $43.7 million increase, $16.6 million is needed to pay for mandatory pay raises and unavoidable price-level increases. The Library also needs $27.1 million and 192 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions to meet critical, growing workload increases. Even with these positions, the Library would have 281 fewer FTEs than in fiscal year 1992.
If approved, the proposed new budget would secure the future of the Library's digital program; ensure the continuity and quality of core services through succession planning in the Congressional Research Service, Library Services and the Law Library; provide for security of the Library staff and collections; and permanently fund a mass deacidification program and full operation of the first offsite storage facility in Fort Meade, Md.
Digital Futures Initiative
Summing up a detailed five-year plan for the Library's proposed Digital Futures Initiative, Dr. Billington said the proposed $21.3 million budget includes $7.6 million to collect and store digital content; $11 million to implement the "critical technology backbone"; and $2.6 million to increase educational outreach and public access.
"I see the National On-line Library becoming the hub of an international network," Dr. Billington said. The National On-line Library also would collect important digital documents, which, "born online," exist only in electronic format, he said.
Also, Digital Futures Initiative funding would enable the Library to guide the development of national and international standards to ensure easy access to digital materials and to continue an in-depth study of digital preservation questions.
The Digital Futures Initiative would build on the achievements of the five-year National Digital Library Program that Congress approved in 1996. Congress appropriated $15 million over five years for the NDL Program, and private foundations, corporations and individuals gave more than $45 million for the program, which expires this year.
According to NDL Program Director Laura Campbell, the Digital Futures Initiative budget would support a base of 133 FTEs, enabling the Library to convert temporary NDL staffers now paid with gift funds to permanent status.
The NDL Program collected digital versions of historical materials from more than 70 collections of the Library and 33 other research institutions and made them available, free of charge, on the Library's American Memory Web site (www.loc.gov). This pioneering effort was a "stunning success," Dr. Billington said, noting that the site won the prestigious Global Information Infrastructure Award for Education in December.
More Hands to Do the Work
In response to questions about other items in the Library's proposed budget, Dr. Billington or his senior managers explained that:
- $2 million requested for a total 46 additional full-time employees (FTEs) would enable the Library to accelerate the preparation and transfer of materials from overcrowded Capitol Hill quarters to new storage modules to be built at Fort Meade, Md., and to rearrange the remaining collections on Capitol Hill to better serve readers.
- $5 million in the budget of the Architect of the Capitol for the Library would match funds from a private donor to accelerate preparation of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., for offsite preservation and storage of audio-visual materials.
- Permanent funding ($2.5 million) would sustain the increased police staffing approved two years ago, and an increase of $4.5 million would improve collections security controls, such as bar codes, by which all items can be tracked through the integrated library system (ILS) and a baseline item-by-item book inventory against which to measure loss or theft.
- The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is visiting graduate schools to ask "the best and brightest in the country ... to come to work for you," CRS Director Dan Mulhollan told the panel.
- The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has started designing new digital standards for audio books and has a plan by which the agency is planning to adapt services and products to the digital age.
In conclusion, subcommittee chairman Taylor thanked Dr. Billington and his staff for their presentation, and he praised the Librarian for "the respect shown you from all over the world... .[for] your desire to make information available all around the world and for your character."
Ms. Fineberg is editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newspaper.