Louisiana state library funding has been eliminated
Citing budget concerns, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a $25-billion budget that eliminates almost $900,000 in state funding for its libraries. In a statement, the governor’s chief budget aide, Paul Rainwater, said, “In tight budget times, we prioritized funding for healthcare and education. Operations such as local libraries can be supported with local, not state dollars.”
On Thursday, Library Journal took a look at that assertion. What they found was that while some local parishes may be able to cover the funding gap, others will feel the loss. Rural parishes will face a particularly daunting challenge.
One of those parishes is Concordia, located on the Louisiana-Mississippi border. Library Journal spoke to the Concordia Parish Library's director, Amanda Taylor.
“There’s no longer a food stamp office; there’s no longer a social security office. In our rural parish, a lot of our people have low literacy skills and very few computer skills. They come to the library because all of that has to be done online. There are some offices in some bigger areas but there’s no mass transportation and a lot of our people do not have transportation to a place that’s two hours away. A lot of our people have children in the military and they come to email their children that are all over the world on these bases. And almost all of the companies require you to do a job application online, even if it’s just for a truck driver who doesn’t need to be great at computer skills, so it is very important that we offer this service."
Concordia formerly got $12,000 per year from the state, which it used to “keep up all of the maintenance [on its 52 PCs], buy new software, and to buy new equipment as needed.”
With that money gone, Concordia plans not to buy anything new, and hopes all its old equipment keeps working. Maintenance costs will have to come out of the materials budget. In the meantime, Taylor is already working on getting the funding restored. “We are already talking to our legislators about the next budget,” she said. “We are going to work really hard to make the legislators understand how important it is in these rural areas because citizens depend on the public library. We’re going to hope for the Legislature to open their eyes to what we do every day.”
Libraries have drawn the attention of lawmakers faced with continually diminishing budgets. Pomona recently saw its public library threatened with closure. In New York City, $96 million in library cuts were proposed -- after a strong showing of public support, $90 million was restored.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photos: Two branches of the Concordia Parish Library in Louisiana. Credit: Concordia Parish Library