Libraries Reach FY2011 – Some Relieved, All Wary

June 29, 2010


The FY2010 roller-coaster ride is just about over, and many a library advocate is undoubtedly glad to see the back of it. There’s a curious symmetry about the timing: Thousands of tenacious front-line library supporters are taking stock of their finalized local budgets even as a swarm of library boosters descended on Capitol Hill June 29 to speak up for full library funding at the federal level—with another 1,061 making themselves heard online.

New York Public Library staff members heaved a sigh of relief June 24 with the announcement that the system had dodged a catastrophic $37-million budget cut. “You spoke out loud and clear,” read a poignant thank-you message on the NYPL website. The open letter credited “the 130,000 who wrote letters, donated more than $144,000 online, called elected officials, and raised their voices on the steps of City Hall” with convincing Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council to restore enough funding to ensure five-day-a week service. Queens Library offered public thanks to elected officials and supporters alike for restoring $17 million to the budget, thus “making libraries a priority, for ensuring every one of our libraries remains open an average of five days a week.” A pragmatic Brooklyn Public Library indicated nothing as of the evening of June 28, maintaining its “save the library” web page. Among the variables still in play is the amount of state aid public libraries will receive; a contentious struggle at the state capitol makes the outcome anyones guess.

The New Jersey Library Association heralded a budget agreement between Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature that restores FY2010 funding levels for resource sharing and the New Jersey State Library. “We can breath a sigh of relief, but it doesn't mean it won’t happen again next year,” NJLA Executive Director Pat Tumulty said in the June 24 Vineland Daily Journal. Instead of suffering a $10.4-million cut. New Jersey’s public libraries are counting themselves lucky to contend with a $6-million reduction. And even though Gov. Christie signed the state budget June 29, many community libraries are vulnerable to the fiscal woes of their municipalities and a 2.9% annual property-tax cap. However, a bill that passed the state senate unanimously June 28 may offer some hope; if enacted, S. 2068 would give municipal libraries a dedicated line on property-tax bills and remove them from the cap.

While New York and New Jersey libraries (as well as those in Boston, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and countless points in between), have fought off draconian cuts for months, South Carolina’s library community had a narrow window of opportunity to win an override of Gov. Mark Sanford’s devastating veto of $4.65 million in state aid and $1.172 million in stimulus funds for public libraries. However, State Librarian David Goble marshalled advocates through traditional and social-network channels, and they connected with lawmakers so persuasively that Sanford’s veto was overturned five days later.