U.S. Presidential Candidates Comment on Library Issues; Here Are the First Replies to an ALA Member's Questions

Article excerpt

Here are the first replies to an ALA member's questions

*The 15 candidates then identified by the media were: Bruce Babbitt, Joseph Biden, Jr., George Bush, Robert Dole, Michael Dukakis, Pete du Pont, Richard Gephardt, Albert Gore, Alexander Haig, Jesse Jackson, Jack Kemp, Paul Laxalt, Pat Robertson, Patricia Schroeder, and Paul Simon. Janis Bandelin is a doctoral student in the School of Library and Information Studies, Texas Woman's University, and special projects librarian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Her interest in politics prompted her to develop this survey.

IN NOVEMBER 1988, THE American people will elect a new President. Because the holder of that office can profoundly influence library and information policy, librarians will do well to know the specific views of each presidential candidate before voting in primaries and the general election.

In mid-1987, consulting with Prof. Bernard Schlessinger of the Texas Woman's University School of Library and Information Studies, I formulated four questions to elicit the opinions of each candidate on issues concerning librarians. They were:

1 How do you view the library%; role in educating our society and in preserving our system of government?

2 In the Past few years, the present administration has been in favor of "zeroing out" the funding for library programs. How large a role do you believe the federal government should play in providing funds for libraries?

3. What is your view on contracting out government library and information services to private firms?

4. How do you use the library? How has the existence of libraries affected your life?

In July I sent these questions along with a letter to the (then) 15 apparent presidential candidates from the two major parties.* The letter could only promise that responses would appear in American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association, if a fair number of opinions were received.

By October, I had received full responses from Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill) and Sen. Joseph Biden, Jn (D-Del.), and a brief statement from Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). To encourage more response, I sent a second mailing with a deadline of Dec. 1. This time, Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kans.) provided a statement through his campaign vice- chairperson Robert Lightnizer.

Encouraged by American Libraries, I have continued to pursue responses from the remaining candidates, and answers will be published as received. Meanwhile, the unedited replies from Kemp, Simon, and Dole are presented below in the order received. Although Biden is no longer a candidate, he is an influential member of the Senate, and his responses are informative; therefore, excerpts from his remarks are appended.

Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.)

Statement on libraries:

I BELIEVE THAT THE PUBLIC LIbrary plays a very important role in our democratic society, as a source of information and an opportunity for learning that is open to all people. While I do not favor the elimination of federal aid to libraries, I believe that the primary responsibility for library funding belongs to states and localities. In general, I think that contracting out can be a positive option that will increase efficiency and responsiveness, but it must be carefully monitored to ensure that the public interest is served. I have found the Library of Congress to be an enormous asset to my work as a member of Congress since 1970, and my family and I have used the public library often.

Sen. Paul Simon (D-111.)

Response to questions:

1. The library's role

I VIEW THE LIBRARY'S ROLE IN education and in our government as an integral and critical part of these systems. Library services are a key to expanding a child's interest in reading at the earliest levels to enable them to complete their educational research development in later years at each educational level. …