Cities, States Slashing Public Library Funding
Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge points out that, while this is National Library Week, there is little reason for public libraries to celebrate. Cities such as Boston and Indianapolis and states including Florida and New Jersey are decimating their library budgets, closing branches and laying off staff. Part of the problem, he believes, is that their very universality makes gives libraries no natural policy domain:
"Libraries, once considered a necessity, are now seen as a luxury. They are low-hanging fruit for budget pluckers, particularly at the state and local levels of government in communities across the country. It's been a slow death by attrition over the past couple of years. First, it was the budget for books and materials because, after all, books and materials aren't people. No matter that books and materials are what makes a library, well, a library. Then came the hours of operation, then the staff, then the closure of branches. No two communities are approaching the situation identically, but in cities from Boston to Indianapolis, the stories are increasingly dire.
One problem for libraries in some jurisdictions is that they don't fit squarely into any one policymaker's domain, like public safety or a school system. Libraries serve a range of purposes - they help teach children to read, they help students work on projects, they provide meeting space for tutoring, they provide Internet access. They serve students, seniors, immigrants. They provide assistance to the unemployed. Libraries combine education, workforce development, socialization, recreation. But they aren't the school board, or a social services agency, and so generally get buried in the larger budgets."