By Roger Carswell, Co-Chair, KLA Governmental Affairs Committee
Facing very deep cuts in state aid to Kansas libraries, the KLA Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) sought input from public libraries on what impact these cuts would have on the state. We hope to demonstrate for legislators that such deep cuts would have significant negative impact in the provision of library service. We heard from some of the smallest and some of the largest libraries in Kansas.
Most commonly, librarians reported that state aid was an important part of their materials budget and cuts would have a severe impact:
We use all of our state aid dollars for books. As it stands right now, we don’t quite meet the preferred percentage of budget dollars spent on materials that the state and regional system set for a library of our type/size. A substantial cut in state aid would only put us farther behind. (Dodge City)
We are a very small library in a town of around 250-300 people. If I lost 21% that would equal my entire budget for Adult Fiction plus it would also take money out of my Junior and Children’s book budget as well. My patrons have become more and more dependent on our library for the things they used to purchase in town (movies, books, magazines, newspapers) or even using the Internet. This cut would be devastating to our library. (Everest)
The following collections would see fairly major reductions in the amount of materials purchased: adult large print books, juvenile audiobooks, juvenile non-fiction books. (Chanute)
Loss of these funds would greatly affect the purchase of new books for our youth. (Girard)
We could be in real trouble trying to simply maintain the collection, let alone meet any of the demands our patrons have for things like DVDs, downloadables, etc. (Hutchinson)
There are 78 libraries in the Central Kansas Library System and all rely heavily on a steady supply of books from the System’s rotating collection to supplement their own collections. A 21% reduction in state aid would mean more than 203 less items purchased for the rotating collection. (Central Kansas Library System)
Youth programming would also take a major hit:
We use the state aid money to assist in our outreach program to area pre-schools and local head start programs. (Sabetha)
It would hurt our programming for children and teens very much. (Sedan)
Hoisington Public Library…uses 100% of the state aid for children’s programming. A 21% cut would drastically impact not only summer reading program but also on-going story times. Specifically, this would come very close to eliminating summer reading program.
Another area of concern is computers and computer training:
We have people signing up for our free basic computer classes because they’ve applied for or even been hired for jobs and they’ve fudged a bit on what their computer skills are. Because our classes are free we have waiting lists sometimes weeks in advance. Where we were planning to increase our offerings by moving our trainer from part-time to full-time, we’re now holding off because it looks like the money may not be there. (Hutchinson)
We… fund our public Internet access at the Central Library and Alford branch from state aid. (Wichita)
It could cause us to not be able to buy 3 new computers on our 4-5 year rotation. Most companies do a 3-year rotation of their computers, so we’re already slower. This would probably result in us having fewer working computers in a time when people need them more. (Arkansas City)
And it doesn’t stop there. Everything from public service staff to Talking Books could be impacted in some locations:
Wichita Public uses much of our state aid grant to supplement staffing. The employees funded from state aid are our volunteer coordinator, our local history librarian, two part-time employees who help with directory service and service to small business in the Business & Technology Section, one library assistant in the Children’s Room at the Central Library that does most of the special programs to school groups, boy/girl scout troops, etc…. A cut as deep as is being recommended means one or more of these service programs will have to be eliminated. (Wichita)
Part or all of that… funding for Talking Books would probably be cut. In addition, we would be eliminating support for Internet services and would eliminate purchase of Overdrive audiobook titles. (Northeast Kansas Library System)
It is obvious that state aid is an important component of the funding of library service in the state. Legislators must be made aware that such severe cuts in state aid have real-world consequences.