I recently read an article about the drastic budget cuts happening to American libraries thanks to the painfully slow economic recovery. Curious to learn more, I Googled the cutback issue and couldn’t believe how many libraries are being affected not only in the U.S., but here in Canada as well.
Let’s talk about America for a minute. Now, budget cutbacks to libraries aren’t new, nor are they even that rare. Each time the economy slides into recession (on average every 5 to 7 years), budgets of all types are slashed. But the cutbacks proposed this year are scary. I couldn’t begin to list all of the states who have been or will be affected, but when millions per state are slashed, as proposed in California, you know that plenty of jobs will be lost and far fewer books purchased.
In its 2011-2012 budget, California is proposing to eliminate ALL state funding for the Public Library Fund, in other words, millions of dollars. Last July, North Carolina cut its library budget by 30% and eliminated 300 jobs. Not only are jobs being lost and new books not purchased, but library hours are also being reduced.
Although our economy is better in Canada, libraries are facing the same issues. Toronto’s new mayor has asked the Toronto Public Library to cut 5% of its budget, which the library has declined. A story in Quill & Quire Magazine quoted from a Globe and Mail article which indicated that given the proposed cuts and the mayor’s apparent agenda for change, the TPL would have to close all but five of its 99 city libraries, reduce operating hours, and order 116,000 fewer books to meet those demands for cuts. To read the Quill & Quire piece, with a link to The Globe and Mail story, go to http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2010/12/01/toronto-public-libraries-may-face-budget-cuts/
Winnipeg and Calgary are also facing budget cuts and are encouraging supporters to fight the proposed slashes. Vancouver has also been asked to cut some of its budget, and who knows how many others across the country? The ramifications are huge, not only for library staff and writers who depend on library sales, but for patrons who use the library to upgrade their skills, improve their education, learn how to write resumes, and find jobs. Libraries are the foundation of learning, self-improvement, and bettering our futures. Why do governments think it’s okay to cut chunks out of the heart of cities, but not to cut spending in, shall we say, the Senate? What has the Senate done lately to help us improve our lives?