Contact: Larra Clark
Media Relations Manager
For Immediate Release
November 10, 2004
More than 1 million residents slated to lose library service
in New York, California
(CHICAGO) The American Library Association today sounded a "high alert" for access to library services in Erie County, N.Y., and Salinas, Calif. County and city officials, respectively, have signaled that all area public libraries will be shuttered in response to government funding shortfalls.
"Your ability to get information shouldn't depend on your ability to pay for it. Free access to the books, ideas, resources and information in America's libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment and self-government," said ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano. "While the ALA has tracked library funding cuts in more than 40 states, this is the first I've heard of residents losing all access to public library services."
Based on published news reports compiled by the ALA over the past 16 months, library funding cuts have reached at least $82 million, with at least 2,100 jobs eliminated and at least 31 libraries closed, not including Erie County or Salinas. Just this week, Spokane Public Library (Wash.) announced it will lose $1 million in spending, eliminating 15 jobs and reducing operating hours at all of its libraries. For more current information on library funding, please visit www.ala.org/libraryfunding.
The cuts at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (BECPL) come in the face of record-breaking use. Since the recession year of 2001, circulation of library materials across the county's 52 libraries has increased 21 percent. Over the same period, library computer use has soared 48 percent. This year, the library expects to circulate more than 9 million items, welcome and serve more than 5 million visitors and provide more than 450,000 registered computer-use sessions.
"No other county-funded service touches as many residents as the public library. No other county-funded service shows greater return on investment. No other county-funded service contributes more to the quality of life. No other county-funded service makes the weak strong, the uninformed enlightened and the average person able to succeed in an increasingly challenging world," said BECPL Board Chair Rebecca Pordum.
The library, which serves more than 950,000 residents, is funded primarily through a dedicated portion of the county's real property tax. Under a proposal from the County Budget Office, support would plummet from $24.2 million in 2004 to $5.2 million in 2005 - a loss of $19 million. This cut would trigger an additional $2.8 million cut in New York State Aid, resulting in a 75 percent reduction of the library's operating budget and closure of all 52 libraries in the county.
Salinas City Manager Dave Mora recently announced that he will recommend that the city close its three libraries after residents voted down two out of three tax measures that would have raised between $9.5 million and $12 million for city services annually. Mora said that even if the city council decided to keep one library open, an estimated $1 million would have to be cut from public safety. At least 71 FTE positions, nearly half of them library staff, will be eliminated in January. The Salinas Public Library's three libraries, which serve more than 150,000 residents, recorded more than 450,000 visits last year, and circulated almost 530,000 items.
Nationwide, public library visits have doubled over the past decade to almost 1.2 billion. Americans spend roughly $25 per year for the public library - much less than the average cost of a hardcover book - and check out an average of six books per year.
For more information on national library use and funding, please call Larra Clark at 312-280-5043 or Macey Morales at 312-280-4393.