Friday, December 05, 2008

Library budget cuts

Although one of my occupations is librarian, I would probably be viewed as something of a heretic in the library world.

I just received a bulk e-mail from a local library association warning of potential government budget cuts for libraries, reminding us what a great value libraries are, and begging us to "Please write to your Member of Congress, Senators, and President-elect Obama and ask them to keep libraries in mind during these trying economic times."

The e-mail went on to say that "In order to continue providing free Internet access and the other valuable services that patrons have come to rely on, libraries will need full funding through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)" at a cost of 171.5 million dollars.

While 171.5 million dollars is not a lot of money to most members of Congress, when you spend a hundred million here and a hundred million there, pretty soon you're talking about some real money! (to modify a phrase sometimes attributed to former Senator Everett Dirksen)

While I certainly think libraries are important, the federal government may be spending up to a trillion dollars in bailouts and my state alone just announced that we are something like five billion dollars in the red!

Our legislators will either need to significantly raise taxes in a time when more and more people are losing their jobs, and many who still have jobs are having trouble paying their mortgage, OR legislators will need to significantly cut budgets.

So if I was a state legislator and had to decide between cutting funding for libraries, for example, or cutting police, fire, snow removal, or county hospital services for those who can't afford medical insurance--ensuring that libraries have full funding would probably not be on the top of my priority list.

If I was a U.S. Congressman and had to decide between cutting $171.5 million in library grants or cutting 171.5 million from Homeland Security, FEMA or the FBI........, well, what would you do?


Jason said...

Yeah, and besides, let be totally honest, this "Free internet" that patrons supposedly need is probably being used for Facebook and Myspace rather than actually educational research.

professor ed said...

I certainly agree with you Dennis that with serious shortfalls facing many budgets at various levels, libraries will not be at, or even near, the top of the monetary priorities list. Realilsticly speaking, I suspect the bulk mailing is attempting to ask for "full funding", but with a definite "fall back" position firmly established

Kevin said...

My state recently had a ballot measure to increase funding for libraries. I voted against it. A few years ago my town decided to spend a few million to build a beautiful new library building... it's spacious, has wi-fi, reading areas, meeting rooms, etc. It was a waste... it's great an all, but we're not thinking economically, we're not thinking about how get the absolute most from every dollar.

If restaurants can offer wi-fi for free, why can't citys rent out a few buildings here and there, put some inexpensive computers in them, and give people Internet access?

What about digital book resources? Google has digitized tens-of-thousands of books why not broker a nation-wide or state-wide deal with publishers to get access to these resources? Maybe modifying copyright laws to allow public libraries free access to digital copies of the books on premises?

We continue to hand money over to people who are not being creative, they keep doing the old things, cut here or there... we need to transform and get better.

Lori Thornton said...

My biggest gripe as a librarian is that public libraries that get the cuts cut the night and weekend hours rather than a morning or perhaps Wednesday afternoon. I've heard from several academic and public libraries who say that their usage (particularly of leisure reading materials) is actually up right now. Cutting evening and weekend hours makes it very difficult for those persons who work regular jobs to be library users at a time when they are most likely to do so. I use the genealogical collection in a nearby major city. Until this weekend, they were open on Saturdays from 9-5. Now they are only open 1-5, reducing the hours I'm able to do research. They used to be open Monday and Tuesday nights until 8:30 p.m. Now they are only open Monday night which just happens to be my night to work at our library. They are open Sunday afternoons from 1-5, but I'm too tied up with church commitments to find that a convenient time. All of their other hours are at times when I am working. Is that convenient for potential users? Not at all. Rather than cutting Tuesday night, why couldn't they have cut Tuesday morning? Rather than cutting Saturday morning, why couldn't they cut Wednesday afternoon?

Steve said...

If the last eith years have shown us anything, it's shown us that conservatives have a contempt for knowledge, facts, education, literacy and any kind of intellectual pursuit, hence their worship of one of the least curious and most intellectually deficient presidents we've ever had and their new low for perhaps the least intellectually qualified vice presidential candidate we've ever had, or at least since Dan Quayle.

So it's no surprise you would think libraries are not that important.

Steve said...

I should proofread before I hit publish:


Dennis said...


Did you even read what Lori wrote? She is a librarian! She is not anti-library or anti-learning.

Her point was that when public libraries are forced to cut budgets, they tend to cut the most heavily used times of the day, i.e. evenings.

This serves two purposes. 1) They librarians get their evenings off and 2) it creates a public uproad leading to more funding for libraries.

In other words, their first concern is not for learning, or for their is for themselves!

professor ed said...

Dear Steve:
For the record, I do not accept your "premise" that Bush, the younger, was one of the "... most intellectually deficient presidents we've ever had..." . He was a graduate of Yale, 1968. I am looking forward to analysing how intellectually acute our 44th president will be once severe reality erodes his anticipated "honeymoon" period in office.

Steve said...

I wasn't responding to what Lori wrote. I was responding to what you wrote and have written.

Getting into Yale when you are a legacy admission and your family has given money to the school is not proof of intelligence.