Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Save Ohio Libraries (And, Maybe Your Own)

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.

22 comments:

Joe Barone said...

Legislators often react to recession by cutting the things which help people most.

I've read that libraries are more used and more helpful than ever before. In hard times, people use library resources (computers, etc.) to help look for jobs. They look to library books for inexpensive recreation. And my guess would be that, in some cases, librarians become good listeners to people with hard stories.

In our own state, the legislature has cut things like the Missouri Scholars' Academy, a three week program to reward and encourage gifted high school sophomores. Our son found his wings at Missouri Scholars' Academy and went on to become a PhD engineer.

So, I really hear you about Ohio libraries. What a stupid thing to cut in a recession.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Joe. It is stupid to cut the money to libraries during a recession, the time when they're need the most. And, you're right -it's education, and those services most needed that are cut.

Lesa said...

There's a rally at the Cleveland Public Library today at 10:30 AM for Save Ohio Libraries. Good luck, everyone!

Corey Wilde said...

Thanks for helping to get out the word, Lesa, The budget goes before the legislature on the 30th, so we havn't much time to make our voices heard.

There are entire counties in southeastern Ohio (and maybe elsewhere in the state, I don't know) in which there are NO bookstores, none, and very little in the way of jobs services from the local governments. People in those areas simply cannot afford to lose their libraries: Libraries are their lifeline to hope.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Corey,

I'm doing what I can. I totally understand how Ohio libraries are dependent on that funding. And, the people of Ohio are dependent on their public libraries.

Good luck, and I hope more people will call the Governor, and write their legislators. I know I've asked my friends and family to do it.

Jim said...

Lesa, I, of course wrote a letter to the Governor!
I love you,
Jim

June 23, 2009

Dear Governor Strickland,

I am writing you on behalf of the Libraries of Ohio. I understand that Ohio has been severely effected the recession and I understand the need for cuts in the State’s Budget. However, cutting the money to Libraries in one-half would be the worst way possible to deal with Ohio’s Budget Crisis.

I am no longer a resident of Ohio, however having been born and raised there I am greatly concerned with the future of my true home. I know as a youth if it wouldn’t have been for the Library, I would probably be dead or is prison now. Instead, because of the Library I ended up with a sucessful career as a Director of Substance Abuse Programs. Though this experience I not only relieved the State the cost for my incarceration, I also saved the State the cost of incarcerating future prison inmates.

President Obama states that children are our most precious resource. By closing the Libraries you are going to be sentencing a generation of youth, to be on the streets without obtaining the education they so dearly need. I know this from personal experience. President Obama stresses the need for the education of our children, however if you cut funding in half, where do the children have the resources to obtain that education?

Ohio has always been known for the quality of their Libraries. Our you going to be the Governor that cuts funding in half, and destroys some of the finest Libraries in the Nation. I met my wife in Huron, Ohio where she was the Director of a Library at the age of 22. We were married in that Library and it changed my life.

I know you aren’t doing this out of spite, and that you are a good man, and Governor, with difficult decisions to make. I implore to you to look at what I am concerned about, and try to find other means to help Ohio in it’s present crisis, without destroying an Institution that Ohio can be proud of.

I will be praying that you find a way to save the Libraries and a Generation of youth.

I remain

Sincerely,

James A. Holstine

Rhonda Stapleton said...

GREAT post! I just blogged about this on Monday, 6/22, and I'm thrilled to see other people doing the same--this is a crucial subject!

Lesa said...

Jim,

Thank you for sending this letter to the Governor, and caring enough to write. I hope Ohio residents speak out. Terrific letter. Thank you.

Lesa said...

Thank you for posting yours as well, Rhonda. It is a crucial library. In the long run, the loss of Ohio libraries will affect not only the future of Ohio, but the future of the country. There are a number of childen who will be affected by the closure of libraries, and children are our future.

Thank you!

Clea Simon said...

This is so short-sighted!! I'm sorry I am not an Ohio resident, but my heart is with you. Libraries are worth fighting for.
- a "Friend of Cambridge Public Library"

Lesa said...

Thank you, Clea. I'm not an Ohio resident anymore, but my heart is with the libraries there. It breaks my heart to know we might lose such wonderful libraries.

And, thank you for being a "Friend of Cambridge Public Library".

Anonymous said...

Lesa,
As the current Director of the Huron Public Library, I can't thank you enough for your support and commitment to Ohio's public libraries.
There were several hundred people at the rally this morning at Cleveland Public Library representing libraries from Clyde to Ashtabula.
Library supporters can learn more at http://saveohiolibraries.com/.
Thank you!
Anne

Lesa said...

Thank you, Anne, and you're welcome. I may have been away from Ohio since 1986, but the libraries there are very special. And the Huron Public Library will always be special to me.

I'm glad several hundred people showed up. I hope they continue to show up, write their legislators, call the governor, and don't let up.

I keep saying, the people in Ohio are fortunate in their libraries. They can't let them die, as communities in Oregon did. Ohio libraries are some of the best in the country.

Pat Browning said...

Lesa,

Thank you for drawing attention to this problem. I envy the people who can buy books. I no longer can. I'm on a very limited budget and depend on the local library and interlibrary loan.

I also appreciate the small but growning number of authors who offer free downloads of some of their books. I'm reading three right now. No fancy e-machine required. They're just .pdf. It takes longer to read than a print book but no problem otherwise.

But the rest of my reading this year has been ARCs for review, and library books from a small but busy library.

A double blessing here in the small town of Yukon, OK -- the library and senior center are in the same building, and there's a shuttle bus 5 days a week. It's my lifeline to the outside world!

Pat Browning

Lesa said...

And, Pat? As the economy gets worse, fewer of us have the disposable income to buy books. Libraries are the institution trying to buy them. If libraries fail, the publishers and authors will fail. Libraries buy more books than individuals. Readers, no matter if they use the library or not, should be supporting their local libraries.

Lesa said...

And, Pat? As the economy gets worse, fewer of us have the disposable income to buy books. Libraries are the institution trying to buy them. If libraries fail, the publishers and authors will fail. Libraries buy more books than individuals. Readers, no matter if they use the library or not, should be supporting their local libraries.

Anonymous said...

I stopped going to the library because of the Patriot Act. It is none of the Government's business what I read.

Lesa said...

It's a shame that's why you stopped going to the library. No one has fought for your privacy, and against the Patriot Act in the way that librarians have.

Anonymous said...

Much as I admire librarians' persistence in attempting to thwart the Government, they didn't succeed. While I can hope the new administration may blunt the Patriot Act's egregious impact, I'm not holding my breath. We have almost no privacy left in this world. Can you blame me for wanting the nature of my intellectual interests to remain my business?

Anonymous said...

Anon: So you're saying you never buy books, movies or music with a credit or debit card? Have not revealed your true identity anywhere on the Internet, not even to your own ISP and you don't ever use your own computer? Because if you have an SSN, a driver's license, a credit report on you, then what does it matter whether the library has a record of your book checkouts? There are so many ways to get at your identity and habits other than the library that unless you are making a supreme effort to stay off the grid, then avoiding the library seems pointless.

Anonymous said...

The Patriot Act is not be invoked to acquire records of my buying habits. However, it was structured to allow library borrowing habits to become the Government's business. That's a big difference. This is a protest against an unfair law.

Anonymous said...

In Section 225 of the Patriot Act, there is a provision that says, "no cause of action shall lie in any court against any provider of a wire or electronic communication service that furnishes any information in accordance with a court order or request for emergency assistance under this Act." So Verizon, Sprint, AOL, ATT et al, can provide your data at the request of the Feds, no warrant necessary.

And if they can get your electronic records they have your online purchases, your online banking and those purchases, your email, your friends, your cellphone calls, and so you see where I'm going with this?

So if you're holding out against only the libraries in protest, you should know there is much more important data the govt can easily get than your library records.