On May 18th, I spent the day at the State Capitol, supporting the efforts of the California Library Association (CLA), Friends of the San Francisco Public Library (FSFPL), and other library groups from all over our state who are working to ensure that the California State budget for 2011-2012 contains a level of funding for our public libraries.
The library is the purest manifestation of a living democracy.
Californians are aware of the catastrophic financial situation our state is in. Governor Jerry Brown inherited a $26 billion dollar deficit when he came into office. This is a massively complicated problem with no easy solution. When you are talking about billions, it is hard to get any attention for $30.4 million. But these millions matter very much and I’d like to explain to my fellow library lovers what is at stake.
In January, Governor Brown unveiled a budget plan that proposed to eliminate all of the state’s funding to public libraries which is $30.4 million. This would result in the elimination of three critical programs that serve our communities and many of our most vulnerable citizens (including 20,000 adults annually who benefit from literacy programs). California would also stand to lose approximately $16 million in Federal matching funds if this money is not allocated to the libraries via the budget.
Library groups like the CLA, FSFPL, and others have been working with the Governor’s office and legislature to educate them about the valuable services the at-risk library programs provide to California citizens. They came up with a realistic plan that would allow the programs to remain functional at a reduced funding level of $15.2 million. The results to date are positive in that Governor Brown’s May Revision proposal includes the $15.2 million. A budget plan recently proposed by Republicans also contains the $15.2 million. This has become known as the “CLA Compromise.”
Over the next few weeks, the legislature will work through the complex process of discussing and voting on the components of the Governor’s May Revision as the June 15th deadline for passing a state Budget looms. The money could still be eliminated and that is why efforts to save this funding will be ongoing.
Yesterday’s event provided an opportunity to speak directly to Democratic and Republican legislators regarding the details of what is at stake, to thank them for supporting libraries in the past, and to tell them how important the funding is to their districts (San Francisco received $460,363 from State funds last year). I was able to attend meetings with representatives from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s office (Assembly District 12) as well as Senator Leland Yee’s office (Senate District 8). I went as an informed constituent, and will follow-up with appropriate letters reiterating my position.
If you would like more information regarding how the budget crisis is affecting California libraries, you can click on the Support California Libraries graphic on this blog which will take you to the CLA web site. This is a wonderful resource that is filled with statistics regarding the programs that are in jeopardy. It also provides guidance regarding how to contact your legislators to send a message of support for public libraries in California.
I need to run now. I have a book on hold at the Excelsior Library!