Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing the Library Services and Construction Act Amendments.

July 20, 1966

IT HAS BEEN a decade since the rural Library Services Act had its beginning. Since then, library services have been provided for 40 million rural and smalltown citizens; 27 million books have been placed on public library shelves; 75 million citizens are enjoying new or improved library facilities.

In 1965 the first funds for construction of public libraries became available. Today nearly 700 communities across the Nation are building new library facilities to serve today's readers--and tomorrow's.

The Library Services and Construction Act Amendments of 1966, which I have signed into law, provide $575 million between now and 1975 to raise the physical standards of libraries, to replace outmoded buildings, and to help provide the 40 million square feet of library space still needed in our country.

This legislation does not simply enlarge the construction program. It also provides $50 million to support interlibrary cooperation. It establishes a $75 million grant program to provide library services for many citizens too often neglected: those who are physically handicapped or institutionalized; persons in State orphanages, hospitals, prisons, and training schools; those who are blind or who cannot read conventional printed matter.

This new legislation builds on a substantial base. Authorized Federal expenditures for library services in fiscal 1966 totaled $610 million, including $260 million for library construction and $180 million for books and materials.

But money alone will not do the job. We need intelligent advice and planning to see that our millions are spent wisely and well. We need to take a close look at the future of our libraries. We need to ask some serious questions.

What part can libraries play in the Nation's rapidly developing communications and information-exchange networks? Computers and new information technology have brought us to the brink of dramatic changes in library technique. As we face this information revolution, we want to be satisfied that our funds do not preserve library practices which are already obsolete.

Are our Federal efforts to assist libraries intelligently administered--or are they too fragmented among separate programs and agencies?

To deal with these and other questions, I will soon name a national library commission of distinguished citizens and experts. Its job will be to point toward an effective and efficient library system for the future. The commission will report directly to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. It can provide a national perspective on the problems that confront our Nation's libraries.

We look forward to the day in America when all forms of knowledge are readily available to our citizens--and when zeal for learning is a trait of all our citizens.

Nearly a century ago Walt Whitman reminded his countrymen that to have great poets a nation must also have great audiences.

By signing this act and establishing this commission, we are helping to provide for that great audience.

Note: As enacted on July 19, the Library Services and Construction Act Amendments of 1966 (H.R. 14050) is Public Law 89-511 (80 Stat. 313).

The President established the President's Committee on Libraries and the National Advisory Commission on Libraries by Executive Order 11301, dated September 2, 1966 (2 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1192; 31 F.R. 11709; 3 CFR, 1966 Comp., p. 144). For a statement by the President upon signing the order see Item 424.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Library Services and Construction Act Amendments. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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