Save Connecticut’s Libraries!

I just returned from Portland, Oregon, where I attended the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2015 Conference. Portland is a fascinating city–gritty but filled with people who care passionately about what they do–whether it is vegan cooking, sustainable agriculture, or brewing beer. On my last day there I passed a group of protestors with placards shouting, “No more war!”

The people who work, use and support Connecticut libraries are passionate too–passionate about the services and resources they provide without distinction to every Connecticut resident, and the important role libraries play in leveling the playing field for all.  We are coming together now to object to cuts in the State’s proposed 2015-16 budget that devastate libraries’ ability to provide important services to Connecticut’s residents.

I’m a little late to this effort, but the letter below is my small contribution to the cause, sent to the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee (apptestimony@cga.ct.gov), the Governor, and my state representatives. If you haven’t already responded to the call from CLA and other agencies, please consider doing so!

I am deeply concerned about the Governor’s budget proposal and its drastic cuts to programs and services vital to Connecticut’s public libraries. With modest funding from the State, the public, school and academic libraries in Connecticut have created a popular and cost-effective system to share resources and serve the needs of Connecticut citizens. The proposed cuts threaten to dismantle this system to the detriment of everyone in the state, but particularly to those who are least able to access resources that can help them pursue an education, a job, and ultimately a fulfilling life.

For example, the Connecticard grant is an important component of the operating budget of Russell Library, Middletown’s public library, and it makes a critical difference for many other libraries in less affluent towns and cities. The program enables any Connecticut resident with borrowing privileges at their local library to use their card at any other public library in the State, either in person or through interlibrary loan. It has created a statewide shared collection of millions of books, DVDs and other materials that can be borrowed free of charge. It allows libraries to develop this collection collaboratively, mindful of the needs of all Connecticut residents—from preschoolers to senior citizens, regardless of their circumstances.

The most damaging impact of the Governor’s budget is the proposal to cut funding for the Connecticut Library Consortium, which relies on a grant from the state for more than half of its operating revenue. CLC is an outstanding example of how de facto regionalization can be achieved in Connecticut. The discounts that CLC negotiates for libraries of all types (public, academic, school, and special), add up to millions of dollars in savings each year. Not having those discounts will mean that libraries will have to severely cut back on materials, (especially books), programs, databases and other services, since individual libraries do not have the leverage with vendors that CLC has as a representative of a large number of Connecticut libraries.

Finally, the Connecticut Education Network provides subsidized high-speed internet service to schools and libraries across the state, including Russell Library. It levels the playing field for Connecticut residents, allowing everyone to access today’s rich–but bandwidth-intensive–online resources. If CEN funding is not restored, this cost will be shifted to individual libraries, to be funded by local taxes or a further reduction in library services.

I understand that cuts must be made to the state’s operating budget, but ask that those cuts be made judiciously. The proposed elimination of all funding for certain library services, particularly when combined with the elimination of the authority to potentially restore funding to these services, will have a devastating effect on all of our state’s libraries. I respectfully urge you to use as much restraint as possible when determining the fate of library services that cost little, but benefit all Connecticut citizens.

Sincerely,

Patricia Tully, Interim Assistant Library Director, Russell Library, 123 Broad St., Middletown, Connecticut 06457. ptully@lioninc.russell.org.

SAVE CONNECTICUT’S LIBRARIES!

About Pat Tully

Librarian exploring effective leadership, local history and community service.
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