Public libraries need support in many fashions. Of course we appreciate everyone who votes with their feet or their mouse to use our services. But to maintain services, especially in tough times, we need specific kinds of intentional supporters: donors, volunteers and advocates.
Today's Capital Times has an excellent article on advocacy by Bill Berry: "Keep the library lights burning." He writes:
Our libraries are busier today than ever before, and there’s something incredibly uplifting about that fact. Much of the increased demand is said to be tied to the economy. As people tighten their belts, they’re using public libraries more than ever.Thanks to Paul Nelson for calling attention to this article.
But that doesn’t mean libraries are safe as local governments strive to balance their ledgers. Difficult decisions are being made about essential services.
As the American Library Association reports, libraries across the nation have endured budget cuts and staff reductions. That has led to reduced hours of operation, branch closings and other cuts in services at a time when the public most needs what libraries provide.
In these tough times, it comes down to defining essential services. By almost any measure, and especially in the current economy, libraries are essential to many people. Folks need to tell that to officials who are making budget decisions.
A 2008 research study commissioned by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on the contribution of Wisconsin public libraries to the state economy found that tax dollars invested in Wisconsin public libraries produced a return on investment of $4.06 of library services for each $1 of taxpayer investment, including both direct economic contributions and the total market value of library services.
Healthy communities need strong businesses that provide good jobs. Just as much, they need good schools and libraries. It’s no stretch to say that libraries are among the crowning achievements of our democratic society. They serve people of all economic backgrounds. Right now, they happen to be needed most by those who’ve been hit hardest by the economic downturn.
Tough times call for tough choices. Libraries aren’t and shouldn’t be immune from scrutiny. But make no mistake about it: Our public libraries are essential to our health and well-being. They nurture informed and educated citizens of all ages who better their own lives and their communities. We need to keep the lights on.