Library of Congress fears sequester cuts to pest control, bookbinding, magazine subscriptions

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

An expected fiscal 2014 budget freeze coupled with the threatened 5 percent sequester cut is weighing heavily on the federal agency most influenced by founding father Thomas Jefferson, the Library of Congress.

"Knowledge and creativity never stand still," said chief Librarian James Billington. "We cannot stop or severely slow down the library's work without beginning to degrade irreversibly our ability to sustain the nation's intellectual and creative capital," he recently told Congress.

But that's exactly what he sees happening and he provided a list of horrors that would occur if Congress doesn't provide an inflation boost over last year's $629 million budget and defer the sequester. Among them:

-- Staff would be furloughed or cut, especially among curators, key to the library's mission of having a copy of virtually everything published.

-- Magazine subscriptions would be slashed. Billington warned, "If we had to miss one year's subscription to a scientific publication that we had acquired for 50 years, we would lose not just one fiftieth, but half of its usefulness, and would never fully be recovered in the future."

-- Book binding would be reduced, "resulting in damage to the collections..."

-- Cuts in services such as food, trash removal and pest control would mean a "lessening of health and safety protections for staff and visitors."

-- "Rush requests" from Congress would be delayed by the nation's library started with Jefferson's vast book collection.

-- The National Library for the Blind would postpone converting 5,000 titles.

"We have had virtually flat budgets in recent years, and, if we are faced with another set of across-the-board cuts, the library would risk a decline in our core services at precisely the time our mission is becoming more important than ever for America," warned Billington.