Library Legislative Day happened to be on April Fool’s Day this year, but no one’s kidding about the need for more library funding!
Massachusetts library advocates who met at the State House yesterday picked up spreadsheets showing the library-related budget line items since 2001, and the deep cuts that they took during the recession(s) have not been restored, so funding for libraries is still below 2001 levels. In some line items, it’s way below.
For example, Line 9506 – Library Technology & Resource Sharing was close to $4.5 million in 2001; in 2015, it’s well under $3 million. Line 9506 helps fund the infrastructure that allows libraries in the state to be part of automated library networks (borrowing and lending within a network). Another example is Line 9501 – State Aid to Public Libraries, which after sustaining deep cuts, has been partially restored to 2001 levels, but isn’t there yet.
State funding through line items 9501 and 9506 helps level the playing field for libraries in Western Massachusetts towns where high-speed Internet is unavailable, for example.
The chair of the Library Caucus, Rep. Kate Hogan spoke passionately to the audience of legislators, legislative aides, librarians, library trustees, and other library supporters. “Libraries are an integral part of local aid,” she reminded everyone. “Money for public libraries is local aid. As lobbyists, you can’t say that often enough to your legislators.”
Rep. Byron Rushing was presented with the Mass. Library Association’s Advocacy Award. Speaking about the importance of public libraries, he joked that the reason the words “Free to All” are etched in granite over the entrance to the Boston Public Library (where he is a trustee) is so that no one can come along and put up another sign. “What’s important is not the books, it’s that they are public,” he stressed.
The Massachusetts Center for the Book is line item 9508, and we can’t forget about that! It’s part of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners legislative agenda again this year, but more support is needed for this Library of Congress initiative that fosters the importance of books, reading, literacy, and libraries through programs such as Letters about Literature, the Massachusetts Book Awards, and representing our state at the National Book Festival.
The Massachusetts School Library Association is fighting to have the importance of elementary and middle school libraries and media specialists recognized in the state mandate for minimum education requirements. (As it is now, only a high school librarian or media specialist is mandated.) Every year at Library Legislative Day, they award prizes for their bookmark contest for entries submitted by school libraries with librarians (fewer every year). The entries are always amazing.
More photos from the day at the State House. Come in and join us next year!