The heart of a community, a cultural center, a place for enrichment and entertainment, an information and education resource, a vital service, a local history and genealogy repository, a reader’s delight, a place for lifelong learning, a job and career center, a family and children’s place, a technology center, a lifeline – these are words that have been used to describe the public library. Priceless is another way of putting it – 78 percent of those interviewed in a recent national study about the value of the public library said they would not give up their library card for any amount of money.
This well regarded institution, the public library, could be in serious trouble in Pennsylvania. The state budget currently under debate could have cuts to public libraries as deep as 50 percent and eliminate important services. This would be devastating to our public libraries that have always operated very frugally to provide services to all ages and all people in their community.
In the community of Clearfield, the public library could lose 50 percent in state funds. This comes at a time when library use is at its highest. During hard times, public libraries are used more. As people cancel magazine sub scri ptions, stop buying or renting books or movies, cut back on
vacations, need help looking for work or gaining job skills, and give up high speed Internet access, they turn to the public library to fill
their needs. We have seen this at the Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library – more people than ever are visiting the libraries, using resources and services and checking out materials.
Over 10,000 community members have a current public library card. These cardholders check out close to 80,000 items each year.
These proposed cuts would cripple our libraries – fewer new books purchased, hours and staff reduced, and services eliminated or cut back. Also in jeopardy are 1) the POWER Library databases used by students and adults for research and information, 2) daily delivery service between libraries, 3) statewide borrowing privileges, and 4) AskHerePA, online 24/7 reference service.
If state funding is reduced, federal funding to the state will also be reduced, which would be doubly destructive. The federal government
provides funds for innovative grants, critical statewide initiatives, training opportunities, advisory services and more. Pennsylvania could lose another $3 million in federal funds.
The public library is here for the community day in and a day out. It is time for the community to be here for the library. Please let your state senator, representative and the governor know that you want library funding to remain level with 2008 amounts. Tell them how important the library is to you, your family and your community. Call, visit or write them now. For a list of their names and contact information, call your local library. Take the public library off the endangered list. – Paula Marshall, Library Director, Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library.