With the issue of reauthorization of OERI coming before Congress, that body became interested in the library, largely due to the efforts of Major Owens. In August 1991, the House Subcommittee on Select Education, headed by Owens, issued a report entitled "Education 2005: The Role of Research and Development in an Overwhelming Campaign for Education in America." Making use of the GAO study, the report stated that "OERI's backward mind-set is perhaps best symbolized by the way it has allowed the Department of Education's Research Library (which OERI administers) to deteriorate over the years." It proposed that OERI establish a National Education Dissemination System, which would include ERIC, special focus clearinghouses, and other information networks, that would be housed in a transformed National Library of Education. Such a library would be comparable to the National Library of Medicine.
Some of the information from this report was embodied in a bill Congressman Owens introduced on October 1, 1991, entitled "The Educational Research, Development, and Dissemination Excellence Act" (H.R. 3458). The library was referred to as the "National Education Research Library." However, the extensive functions for the library mentioned in the "Education 2005" report were not embodied in the bill. It called for the creation of a National Education Research Library that would be the central collection of education information for the federal government. The National Education Research Library would include the existing Education Research Library, the Education Information Branch, and the Education Information Technology Branch. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. Owens introduced a slightly revised form of this bill with the same name on November 26, 1991 (H.R. 4014), which was also referred to the Committee on Education and Labor.
The Federal Librarians Round Table of the American Library Association reviewed H.R. 4014 and made recommendations for some changes. The group recommended that the library be called the National Library of Education, that its scope be enlarged, and that it be provided with an authorization of appropriations sufficient to carry out its projected functions. The change in name was proposed in order to clarify the fact that the library would not just be a research library for the Department of Education but would serve the entire nation.
When H.R. 4014 was reported out of the Committee on Education and Labor on August 12, 1992, the name of the projected library was changed to "National Library of Education." However, the scope of the library was not enlarged nor was there a specific budget authorization. The Committee's report did address the issue of expansion. "In the future, the committee believes that the newly-authorized National Library of Education can and should provide reference and other services to the education community which are comparable in scope to those now being offered by the National Agricultural Library and the National Library of Medicine. For the immediate period of time covered by this reauthorization, however, the committee believes that most of the Library's focus should be on addressing the serious problems identified by GAO. . . . Once these essential, nuts-and-bolts tasks have been dealt with, the Library will be poised to offer an expanded array of more intensive services to both the Department and the general public."
The OERI reauthorization bill (S. 1275) introduced in the Senate by Senator Claiborne Pell (Democrat, Rhode Island) also called for the creation of a National Library of Education. The bill was reported by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee on April 9, 1992 but was never voted on by the whole Senate. With no Senate vote on the bill, the OERI reauthorization measure died in the 102d Congress.
Both the Senate and House bills were reintroduced, virtually unchanged, into their respective houses early in the 103d Congress, which began in January 1993. Congressman Major Owens introduced the reauthorization bill in the House of Representatives on February 4, 1993. The House Education and Labor Committee passed the bill by a unanimous vote on July 28, 1993 and it was sent to the full House.
Senator Claiborne Pell reintroduced the reauthorization bill in the Senate on February 3, 1993. The main difference in the Senate bill from the House bill was that it included an appropriation for the proposed National Library of Education. It called for a $10,000,000 appropriation for the fiscal year 1993, an amount more than 30 times greater than the funds allotted the United States Department of Education Research Library in fiscal year 1994. This reauthorization bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
Ultimately, OERI reauthorization (including the establishment of a National Library of Education) became a part of the Clinton administration's broad school reform bill--Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227). The bill passed the House on October 13, 1993, and an amended form of the bill passed the Senate on February 8, 1994. A House-Senate conference developed a compromise version of the bill, which was approved by the House on March 23, 1994 and by the Senate on March 26, 1994. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on March 31, 1994.
The National Library of Education, established by Part E of Title IX of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, encompasses the existing Education Research Library and enlarges its mission and functions. According to the legislation, the library will "provide a central location within the Federal Government for information about education." Relying on modern information technology, it will serve to "link major libraries, schools, and educational centers across the United States into a network of national education resources." Furthermore, it will provide a "one-stop information and referral service" to the general public. There is no funding level authorized in the legislation.
From the library's beginning in the nineteenth century, the early U.S. Commissioners of Education had explicitly aimed at creating something more than an in-house library for agency staff--they had sought to create a depository of education works for the benefit of scholars and educators from around the country. To some extent, the education library has performed this function, though it has not achieved the comprehensiveness in the field of education that the national libraries of agriculture and medicine have attained in their respective fields. That the education library has fallen short of the national library level is easily explainable by the fact that it has never been provided with sufficient financial or personnel resources. Thus, the education library has maintained throughout its history an in-between status, being more than an in-house agency library and less than a national library. Although Congress has now provided the designation "national library," it would still seem that substantial increases in staffing and funding are required if the National Library of Education is to be comparable to the national libraries of agriculture and medicine.
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Last Modified: April 3, 2006 (jer)