Could you live without your public library?
I couldn’t. Nancy and I visit the Redding Branch of the Shasta Public Libraries once or twice a week. We take out seven or eight books, novels of all kinds from literary to decidedly not, how-to books for household projects (We’re currently putting a pond in our backyard.), and books for research related to our business. We have used the library community room to teach classes on a variety of subjects related to creating books. We check out books on CDs for road trips. Our library has a large family history/genealogy/local history section complete with volunteers to help researchers. All for free! (I know my taxes help pay for it.) I even wrote a post on Why I Celebrate National Library Week last year.
However, all is not well with our libraries. They are quietly becoming casualties of the recession.
According to the American Library Association, 65% of public libraries reported flat or decreased operating budgets in the current fiscal year while 23 states cut library budgets in the most recent fiscal year. The Association reports that in my own state:
California’s 2011–2012 budget contained a 50 % cut to the $30.4 million state-level support for public library programs, providing per capita allocations, support for interlibrary loan, and funding for literacy instruction. In December 2011, Governor Jerry Brown announced a mid-year adjustment that eliminates all remaining funding for these programs. His first budget for 2012–2013 continues to eliminate all funding for public library programs and makes a $1.1 million cut to the State Library administration budget to reflect a decrease in anticipated administrative workload resulting from the previous year’s cuts.
Can you imagine what that means for those of us for whom public libraries are an important part of our lives? Nevada journalist Emmily Bristol doers an excellent job of answering that question in a post titled Nine Reasons to Save Public Libraries on the IVN.us website.
This isn’t an issue that’s likely to get a lot of media attention in this season of negative campaigning. There are no super PACs lining up to save the libraries. Only concerted action by concerned citizens (that’s us) can convince our legislators that public libraries are essential. It doesn’t take long to write a letter, send an email or make a phone call.
After all, think of how much value your public library offers you. (The Henderson Nevada Public Library provides a Library Value Calculator to answer the question, “What is your library worth to you?”)