Brown's proposed budget eliminates state funding for public libraries
New California Gov. Jerry Brown, facing tremendous budget problems, has proposed a statewide budget that eliminates state spending on public libraries entirely. Those cuts amount to around $30 million.
If Brown's budget is passed as is, it will eliminate state funding for the Public Library Foundation, Transaction Based Reimbursement and the California Library Literacy and English Acquisition Service. Public libraries across the state also receive funding from other sources.
A response to Brown's proposed budget by California Library Assn. President Paymaneh Maghsoudi has been posted on the organization's website.
The proposed cuts unveiled by the governor will not only jeopardize library hours, staff positions, and the availability of books and materials, they will also potentially dismantle the cooperative system of borrowing and loaning books, known as Transaction Based Reimbursement (TBR), that has existed statewide for over three decades. Incidentally, a cut of this magnitude to the TBR could make the state ineligible for the federal match that is a part of this program. Lastly, in 2007 alone, more than 20,000 adult learners participated in the state literacy program, benefitting native English speaking adults who have never learned to read, or the K-12 schooling system has failed them. The elimination of the state funding for this program would be truly heartbreaking for individuals and families who desperately need this assistance.
While state funding for libraries has decreased, door counts continue to rise at an amazing rate for most libraries and library branches, and staffs are stretched to capacity. In this difficult economy, libraries are a safety net for many people who have lost their home or jobs and are using their local library to write resumes, attend workshops on credit repair, and utilize free access to high speed Internet to look for work or do research. Public libraries assist our K-12 school children with the necessary tools to help expand their education, such as literacy programs, Homework Help centers, books for school assignments, etc. The timing couldn't be worse for the governor's proposed $30-million cut to public libraries."
Library Journal reports that library funding has suffered in the past in the California Legislature. "The Public Library Fund, which provides direct state aid to public libraries for basic service, has never received its full appropriation from the Legislature, but this cut would represent a new low. In its first year, 1983, the state appropriation was $6 million, and has varied from $56.8 million (80 percent of full funding) in 1999/00 to $12.9 million (12 percent of full funding) in 2008/09."
Brown's office has estimated that California faces a $25.4-billion budget shortfall. Brown says he's looking wherever he can to save money -- he's even ordered 48,000 California employees to return their state-paid cellphones. But he's also had to propose significant cuts: community redevelopment agencies, welfare programs, and the University of California and California State University systems are among those hardest hit. "We understand fully California's dire budget situation and the challenges of the recessionary economy," CLA's Maghsoudi writes, "but the public libraries have done more than their share to assist with the budget deficit over the years by absorbing painful cuts."
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: The Los Angeles Public Library's central branch in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times