Well, this is lovely. Follow: About 70% of Ohio’s public libraries are not funded locally but are funded by something called the Public Library Fund, which is part of the state budget (specifically, 2.2% of state’s tax revenue). The State of Ohio needs to find a way to see it’s way clear of a $3.2 billion shortfall for the next budget. Part of the governor’s proposal to do that: Cut the Public Library Fund by 30% over the next two years.
When this is added on top of an additional 20% decline in the Public Library Fund due to reduction in tax revenues collected (because people are, you know, poorer these days), this means that the large majority of Ohio’s public libraries could see their operating budgets cut in half in the next couple of years. This would almost certainly lead to a number of libraries closing, or substantially cutting back their services and staffing. This is, of course, during a time when libraries are seeing a spike in usage, because rumor is there’s a recession going on, and that’s the time people use their local libraries.
Budget-slashing moments are always painful and everybody squawks when their money gets slashed, and in times like these, I’m not one of those people who demands every public service be exactly at the same level it was before. I understand some things are going to get cut and that I’m going to lose some things my taxes paid for before. That’s life in a bad economy. That said, tweaking the state budget so that libraries end up losing half their funding seems like really dumb thing to do. Despite the occasional spittle I see flung by ignorants, it’s not as if our libraries are lavishly funded, or that the people working in them have nothing to do — libraries and librarians are used to making do with relatively little. But there’s a point at which “little” becomes “simply not enough,” and I would expect that getting one’s budget halved will get them there pretty efficiently.
If you’re an Ohioan, do your local library a favor and ping your local representative and tell him or her that you don’t support such a drastic cut in the Public Library Fund (You can find your House rep here, and your state senator here). They’ve got to decide on a budget this week, so the sooner the better. What I’m going to tell my own reps is that while I get that everyone has to share the pain, there’s pain and then there’s amputation, and this is amputation. I’d like to walk it back to pain, if that’s at all possible.