National Library Week is April 8-14, and I jump-started my celebration by sending eight advocacy letters to Members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Education Finance, who in the coming weeks will be discussing Governor Brown’s proposed budget. In my letters I urged that $15.2 million in public library funding be restored.
As I have written in previous posts, public library funding by the state was $30.4 million in FY 10/11. In FY 11/12, the Governor, faced with an unprecedented budget crisis, slashed all funding. The legislature restored 50% of the funding, but because it was subject to the budget trigger (which ended up being pulled when forecasted state revenues never materialized), all state funding for public libraries was eliminated this fiscal year. Governor Brown’s proposed FY12/13 budget contains no state library funding.
What is at stake is $8.5 million for the California Library Services Act, which allows Californians to borrow materials from any public library in the State; $3.7 million for the California Library Literacy and English Acquisition Services, which provides adults with basic reading and writing skills; and $3 million for the Public Library Foundation, which provides support to libraries for book purchases, children’s programs and other core library services. Also at stake is approximately $16 million in federal matching funding which California will not receive if it doesn’t maintain funding for public libraries in its budget. That’s a net loss of $31 million and it is not acceptable.
California is the 9th largest economy in the world. Ours is the most populous state, making up 12% of the entire U.S. population. Unfortunately, California is also ranked 47th in state spending on education (Education Week’s Quality Counts 2012), and we have a tremendous literacy problem. An estimated 23% of our adult population lacks basic literacy skills. Cutting items out of the state budget like library funding is truly a false saving and short-sighted. We need to do everything possible to ensure our citizenry is literate.
California library advocates are mobilizing to send a strong message to the Governor, that his proposal to eliminate all state funding for public libraries hurts the citizens of California. I think individual patrons who use the libraries also need to mobilize and send our own message to the Governor. The California Library Association has helpful resources which make it easy to send your message to Sacramento. Check out www.cla-net.org.
Don’t forget to hug your librarian next week!