I have a terrific book to review, but I'm going to postpone that until tomorrow, and spend a little time on my soapbox. It's more important to talk about the need to Save Ohio Libraries.
I understand the need to balance state budgets. I do not understand, or accept, the need to cut the funding to Ohio's libraries by 50%, the current proposal by Governor Ted Strickland. Let me quote the Ohio Library Council. "Many of the Ohio's 251 public libraries could close or face significant reductions in operations as a result of the Governor's latest proposal to balance the state's 2010-2011 biennium budget.
"Public libraries in Ohio are funded primarily through the Public Library Fund (PLF), which receives 2.2% of the state's tax revenue. Since 2001, public library funding has been on the decline. As a result of the current downturn in the economy and decreasing state tax revenues, public libraries are currently experiencing a drop in funding from the Public Library Fund (PLF) estimated at 20% or more as compared to 2008. At a news conference on Friday, June 19, the Governor proposed an additional cut in the PLF of $112.5 million in fiscal year 2010 and $114.8 million in 2011 as part of his "framework" to fill the $3.2 billion gap in the budget that must be balanced by Ohio General Assembly's Conference Committee by June 30. This will mean a more than 50% cut in funding for many of Ohio 's public libraries.
"With some 70% of the state's 251 public libraries relying solely on the PLF to fund their operations, the reduction in funding will mean that many will close completely, close branches, or drastically cut hours and services.
"The Governor's proposed funding cuts come at a time when Ohio's public libraries are experiencing unprecedented increases in demands for services. In every community throughout the state, Ohioans are turning to their public library for free high speed Internet to access information on employment opportunities, children and teens are beginning summer reading programs, and people of all ages are turning to the library for information and entertainment."
I'm no longer a resident of Ohio. But, the Huron Public Library was my hometown
library, the library where I researched school projects, read for pleasure, worked as a page during high school. The Huron Public Library has served Huron since 1933. This library, and its staff, is the reason I am a librarian. My sisters both worked as pages here. I went back home as Director of this library for almost five years. I even met and married my husband at that library. Today, this wonderful small town public library faces a cut of almost 50% to their budget. My mother said 48% of their budget comes from the state.
The Sandusky Public Library serves the community just west of Huron. This library "consists of a Main Library, two branches-Kelleys Island Branch Library and Castalia Branch Library- and a local history museum, the Follett House Museum. Our extensive local history archives and genealogy collections, described in greater detail on our website, are located within the Main Library. The library building, constructed in 1901 from funds from Andrew Carnegie, underwent a $10 million renovation and expansion project in 2004." That library could see a loss of nearly $1 million a year from a $3 million annual budget, forcing the library to cut library hours, quit buying new books and end storytime for children.
I could go on about the wonderful libraries in Ohio. Even though I haven't lived there since 1986, I've always been proud of those libraries, considering them some of the best libraries in the country. Now, all of that is in jeopardy.
I understand that states need to balance their budget, but they're doing it on the backs of one of their most important resources. Libraries serve children, the elderly, the unemployed people searching for new jobs. Libraries are the place for families to go for free entertainment at a time when they can't afford other entertainment. Here's my own personal, off-the-wall, theory. If we put money into our schools and public libraries, we wouldn't need to put money into prisons and law enforcement to the extent we do. I think society has their priorities backwards.
I've written to friends and family members in Ohio. My mother has already contacted the governor and her state representative and senator. If you live in Ohio, or have relatives in Ohio, I urge you to contact the governor at (614) 466-3555. If you'd rather email, try Google for Governor Ted Strickland. One of the items is "Governor Strickland email", with a form. Tell him how important libraries are to you, your family, your community. Contact your elected officials, and do it now, before the end of the month. Facebook has an active group called Save Ohio Libraries. Speak up, please.
And, one more point. Even if you don't live in Ohio, what have you done for your public library recently? I was unhappy to read a recent blog in which readers admitted they haven't been to a library lately. These are readers who said they buy their own books, or have piles of books to review. But, how did these readers develop their love of reading? Is there a public library in their past? If there's a public library that made you what you are today, do you still speak up for libraries?
If you live in Ohio, I urge you to call Governor Ted Strickland at (614) 466-3555. Contact your legislators, and tell them libraries are important in Ohio. And, if you don't live in Ohio, it wouldn't hurt to contact your local government, and remind them that libraries are important.
Thank you for your support of public libraries, no matter where you live.