Thursday, June 25, 2009

Save Ohio libraries (and, BTW, my job)!

Here in Ohio, the governor, Ted Strickland, is proposing a state budget to go into effect in just a few days that would cut by 30% the amount of money that Ohio libraries would get to operate. This is on top of an average 20% shortfall we've experienced already this year due to the overall tax collection shortfall. I'm not a mathematician, nor am I an economist, but it does seem like we will be running our libraries with nearly 50% less money that we did last year. My library, like many in the state, doesn't depend completely on state funding, but still, this cut will mean we'll have 30% less money at our disposal.

In this economy, library use is way up, not just for "free" entertainment in the form of books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs, but also for free computer and Internet use (something that has been growing exponentially in the past few years), job search materials, and community programs. We have already been trimming back here and there (not filling jobs which have been vacated, charging more for fines), but a loss this big will truly mean major cuts in our staffing, hours, and programs. How does a "business" that is in more demand than ever wind up like this?

There is a rally at the Statehouse today which I won't be able to attend, but I hope that lots of people, and not just librarians, show up. Unfortunately, I think the everyday visitors to our library who take us for granted (whether for services or just to have a place to relax and a friendly person to talk to) are probably not likely to show up, but they are the ones who will feel the pinch first. Here's hoping these folks, who will have to be at the core of any meaningful protest, do show up, and that our legislators listen to them. The flood of e-mails and phone calls being recieved by the governor and lawmaker in support of libraries is heartening, but I'm not sure that alone will send the message.

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