A question has been posted to FEDLIB asking about federal libraries and
grants. The question is below. Because the question comes up from time
to time, I am supplying an answer about the ability of federal libraries
to apply for grants. If anyone has any positive (federal) experience to
share that they think might help others, we'd be interested in hearing
about it, and would post a summary to the list.
QUESTION: A friend of mine, a librarian at a public library, suggested
that my library may be eligible for grant money for technology, online
databases, and/or other things. I'm unaware of any grants that don't
exclude federal libraries. Am I correct in assuming that the status of
federal libraries excludes them from receiving grants?
Stephen V. Pomes, Librarian
Minerals Management Service
U.S. Dept. of the Interior
1201 Elmwood Park Blvd., MS 5031
New Orleans, LA 70123-2394
E-Mail: <mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]
Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily correspond to
those of my employer.
Steve, the short answer is that it isn't likely you can apply for
grants for your library, but it is okay to check with your General
Counsel's office if you really want to be sure. Federal libraries'
ability to receive grants is rare but not impossible.
Here is what I have learned about the issue. I am not an attorney, so
this is very much a lay person's understanding and I strongly urge you
to check with your agency's counsel before you do anything.
Federal agencies' ability to receive grants is governed by US federal
appropriations law. In effect, they are treated as gifts. In order to
receive a grant, the library must be working within the scope of a
program that has been authorized by Congress to receive grant (or gift)
funds for a particular purpose within the agency. Otherwise, the
library would be supplementing its appropriation, which is illegal.
There have been instances of federal libraries being able to receive
funds from grants, usually from private donors. If you do not know
about the presence or absence of grant/gift opportunities within your
agency, one place to start would be in your General Counsel's office
(OGC) or possibly the budget office. Your OGC would be likely to know
if any programs in your agency are authorized to apply for and receive
grants/gifts. If any are, they also could help you determine if a
particular grant could be considered to fall within the scope of that
authority. However, you also probably would need to work with someone
administering that program in your agency. Your OGC or budget officer
then also would be likely to know who they are.
You also have to be authorized to solicit gifts or grants. In a few
agencies, there have been enough situations created where grants or
gifts can be solicited that someone has been designated to oversee
applying for ("soliciting") and/or managing them. In most agencies,
though, a "grants officer" is someone who oversees distributing grants.
Many grants that public and academic libraries receive are funded by
the US federal government. Most of those grants' authorizing
legislation have stipulations saying they cannot be given to other
federal agencies. In such situations, sometimes an agency can partner
with a non-federal grant recipient, but again, that normally would have
been spelled out in the grant's authorizing legislation. One example of
this is the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation
Program (NDIIP) at the Library of Congress. When it was authorized,
Congress specifically said that while a US federal agency couldn't apply
for the grants NDIIP will administer, it might be a partner of someone
who does apply for and receive a grant. Again, if you are in, for
example, a regional group that includes federal and non-federal
libraries, and someone wants to get a grant for the group to do
something, check it out with your OGC. You may be able to participate
once the grant is received.
When I want to check some aspect of appropriations law (for example, so
I can ask a question of the OGC or Contracting Officers in a more
articulate manner, or remind myself of a technical term), I like to
consult the "GAO Red Book," Principles of Federal Appropriations
Law, 2nd Ed. (GAO,1992). If you don't have a paper copy available, it
is posted in six volumes, as six pdf files, at
http://www.gao.gov/legal.htm (See the bottom right corner of the
page.) Gifts are covered in Volume II, Chapter 6, Section E.3. Section
E covers "Augmentation of Appropriations." - - Lynn McDonald,
FEDLINK Network Coordinator, [log in to unmask] or 202-707-4832