Sunday, June 27, 2010

Library Budget Cuts And Challenges Are Global

In the US library budgets are being slashed. New York Gov. David Paterson has proposed a budget reduction in state aid to libraries of $2.5 million, or 2.9%, cut from exiting levels. This would represent an $18 million, or 17.6% reduction in the past three years and the fifth time state spending for public libraries has been cut in that time. Queens and Brooklyn library systems have informed some 620 employees that their jobs are in jeopardy, Hemet City, California closing the $14 million library building. Newton County Library, Atlanta will be closed on Mondays effective with the library budget already slashed by $280K, and facing further cuts of $100K in the next year. The Seattle Public Library system have taken a different closure strategy and plan to save some $650K by closing down from August 30th through to September 6th . This is just one of the measures the Library is implementing to achieve $3 million in cuts for 2010. Dallas central library plans to cut its hours from 44 to 24 per week, closing Monday through Wednesday. These cuts would eliminate the equivalent of 96 full time positions. Branch library hours could also be cut from 40 to 20 hours per week, eliminating a further 88 full time positions. Dallas City library system budget last year was $28 million, is currently $22 million and could go to as low as $13 million next year.

In the UK austerity demands cuts and it was inevitable that the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport would have to suffer. It was also a given that the ‘Hotch Potch’ of vision created at the 11th hour by Margaret Hodge's Public Library Modernisation Review would be high on the list of soft targets. Free internet access in all libraries and the promotion of library membership as an entitlement from birth has been abandoned. The extension of the Public Lending Right to non-print format books has been suspended and there is also the question of the cut back of the fund itself.

Libraries are a cornerstone of our society and learning but are often the first to feel the axe as funding becomes tough. The question must be not just about their funding but about there role moving forward. If they are to go digital what is their relationship with the retail market and how do we square free to loan versus buy to own? If they have access to digital files is that through a third party service ,where they actually don’t own them, but merely serve them up on demand? You need local branches in an internet world?

The debate rages around the globe and in every form of library but is the thinking fresh? Are the same old comities trying to find the answers that suit them? Who is really tackling the challenge of conflict that the digital models and services present?

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