Letter to the Editor
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Board of Library Commissioners
648 Beacon Street ° Boston, MA 02215
617-267-9400 ° 800-952-7403 (in-state only) ° Fax: 617-421-9833
ATTENTION: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR November 29, 2001
I am writing on behalf of library users throughout Massachusetts to express my disappointment regarding the budget that was adopted by the House and Senate on November 21, 2001.
In a state budget that grew by 1.5 percent, only one library, the Boston Public Library, received an increase in funding (10 percent) while funding for direct aid to public libraries, programs for library technology, and services for the blind and physically handicapped were all cut by 7 percent.
These cuts mean that in almost every city and town library hours will be cut, purchases of new books and other reading materials will be reduced, children and adults will lose access to online educational and research services, and our most needy blind and physically handicapped residents will have less to read. Boston is a wonderful library and needs an increase in funding, but so do other communities.
The budget adopted last week reflects an approach that is simply not equitable or fair. Throughout the state, people who care about libraries and our communities were heartened by the Senate budget, which provided equitable increases in a variety of necessary programs, including the Boston Public Library. They were especially encouraged when the Governor's Recovery Budget, released days before the House and Senate Fiscal Year 2002 Budget, recognized the key educational role that libraries play in difficult times and actually preserved some modest increases. All these hopes were dashed when the legislature's budget was passed with a minimum of review or discussion.
We need to begin to understand that libraries are the other half of our educational system, and that they are undertaking a difficult and expensive transition which will be critical to the future of our communities and Commonwealth as we compete in a global, knowledge-based economy. We are proud of the progress we have made in the last decade, but we are making up for decades of neglect, and our job is far from done. We need stronger libraries, not weaker ones.
Throughout the Commonwealth, community members who care about our future know that the small investment we make in a library benefits every community member. Libraries are unique American institutions, serving all, rich or poor, for free. They are the embodiment of "equal opportunity" - and they deserve equal treatment.