Message to the Community from Luren E. Dickinson:
The month of May might seem like a quiet time in public libraries since people are enjoying the outdoors and the school year is winding down; however, our library staff is busy at work gearing up for the summer reading program and the Ice Cream Social on June 15 that signifies the start of a summer filled with reading. This year’s program—Reading: Sounds Good!—begins June 11 and continues through July 31.
April 18, Joanne Federman, Shaker Family Center Director and partner in the Play and Learn Station, Wendy Simon, Lynne Miller and I traveled to Columbus for the Ohio Library Legislative Day to promote the important role public libraries play in early childhood education. We joined other library professionals, from across northeastern Ohio, on a bus trip to the capital where we had the opportunity to hear testimony on behalf of public library funding by Geauga County Public Library’s Director, Debbie O’Connor. We also met with legislators and legislative aides to discuss the importance of state funds.
Under the Governor’s proposed budget, the current Library & Local Government Support Fund (LLGSF), which supports public libraries almost exclusively, would be renamed the Local Libraries Fund (LLF). Because the LLGSF has been cut or frozen over the past six years, the amount of state funds have dropped 11% while inflation has risen by 17%—a 28% decrease in spending power. Interestingly, the number of materials checked out by the public from Ohio’s public libraries increased by 23% in the six years from 1999 to 2005 (the most recent year for which statewide figures are available). At Shaker Heights Public Library, usage went up by 25% from 2000 to 2006. We are fortunate to have the additional support from our community through property taxes. While our funding situation is problematic, it is not so dire as more than 70% of Ohio public libraries, which rely almost completely on state funds.
Another proposed change, recommended by a bipartisan legislative task force on library funding, would draw the LLF from the more broadly-based state general revenue funds, rather than from state income tax as is the LLGSF. This is seen as a more favorable and stable source of funding overall. The Governor, however, has failed to follow the task force recommendation of a 3% increase in library funding at the beginning of the new biennium, July 1. In fact, his proposed budget continues the freeze through December 31, 2007, and offers nothing but potential inflationary increases during the next two years. Even Tax Commissioner Levin puts the two-year increase at no more than 1.5%, much less than inflation.
Despite funding shortfalls, Shaker Heights Public Library continues to experience double-digit increases in the amount of library materials checked out by the public even in 2007. Interest in the Library by the local residents and officials was evident on April 12 at the Community Strategic Planning Meeting. More than sixty citizens, including some local officials, gave good input regarding the services they feel are important for our district. Subsequent surveys of specific groups such as teens, parents of preschool children, and adults, both at the Main Library and the Bertram Woods Branch, are providing us with an even better picture of where we need to devote our resources.
While we cope with funding issues, we continue to plan and to focus on our service to the public. I encourage you to read the articles about libraries and how they are evolving in the 21st century, which are posted on our website in the Strategic Planning section. Please continue to share your insights and suggestions with us via phone, mail or email. I look forward to a summer filled with reading and I encourage you to join us from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Friday, June 15 on the lawn at Bertram Woods Branch when we kick off the summer reading program.
Luren E. Dickinson,