July 7, 2009: @ the library
Money is a hard thing for most people to discuss, yet it is part of everyday life, at home and at the library. The rhythm of funding for the library resets on the first of July when a new fiscal year begins. Unless you’ve been in a cave, you know that state and local governments are struggling to fund services to their communities in these recessionary times. Although business is booming in the library world, less money is available to do what we’ve always done: provide books and information to the people of Radford.
Money difficulties show up in many ways: more use and a bigger library put a strain on utility budget lines as the fiscal year drew to a close June 30. Worse, custodial supplies ran out and there was no money left to replace them. “There are no paper towels in the restroom!” was the cry from wet-handed library patrons in the final days of June, when austerity meant that we chose one paper product over another to limp to the start of a new funding year. As I write this, a shipment of paper products arrived at the back door… it was just a temporary shortage, but it highlights the very real costs of running a public facility that is heavily used in all seasons. We might have to look into installing those electric hand dryers this year.
Worse news came from Richmond. Most of the tax-supported funding for the public library comes from the City of Radford, paying for all the things that keep the doors open: staff, electricity, paper towels. But an important piece of funding comes in the form of state aid to public libraries, paying for over 80% of books, audiobooks, and DVDs, as well as 100% of computers. This annual grant has been regularly reduced in the past couple of years, often with little notice in the middle of the year. Just one day after being awarded the state aid grant, word came to expect serious reductions in the amount in August. Every day, we will work to provide Radford with the best library funding allows, but strapped governments will continue to make this more challenging. Be patient, books and paper towels are on their way – there just might be fewer of them.