Op. Ed. Letter
Director, Communications & Public Information
Your Local Library:
It?s Where Family, Technology and Community Converge
During the month of April libraries across the Commonwealth will be celebrating Library Awareness Month. Libraries have always been places for education, self-help and lifelong learning. Today, they're at the forefront of the information age, providing computers, Internet access, databases and more. Your local library has something for everyone. It's where family, technology and community converge.
Are you aware that last year, Massachusetts residents made more than 25 million visits to a public library and borrowed more than 45.7 million books, CDs and tapes. For those of you who haven't used your library lately, today's library is not what you remember. It's even better. Want to research your thesis? Find the latest child care information? Write a resume? Surf the Web? Get homework help? Or maybe you just want to curl up with your favorite book and enjoy some peace and quiet. It's all at your local library.
Library services are in greater demand now more than ever during these tight fiscal times as people turn to the library for job information, computer access, children's programs, reading material and other materials for which they can no longer afford to pay.
Are you also aware that public libraries throughout Massachusetts receive less than 11.2 percent of a municipal budget and less than two cents on the local tax dollar, yet libraries are often one of the first services to be cut. On a state level, support for libraries has declined by 25 percent in the past few years. Last year alone, funding for library telecommunications for library networks and interlibrary loans was cut by a whopping 92 percent. In the 21st century, libraries cannot survive without telecommunications, and if this funding is not restored, libraries in Massachusetts will not be able to continue to provide adequate access to the Internet, on-line catalogs of Massachusetts libraries or delivery of wanted materials from one library to another.
In addition, the Governor's proposed FY2004 budget has zero-funded the administration of state supported programs for libraries by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. This agency works with more than 1,700 libraries of all types, public, school, academic and special; coordinates the regional library systems, library services for the blind, and administers more than $3 million in federal funds to libraries across the state.
Libraries cannot offer these services if the librarians needed to run our libraries are no longer available. A library cannot stay open without staff. Library users have the right and responsibility to let our elected officials know that the public is demanding library service despite, and in many cases because of, the hard times.
Difficult choices are being made on Beacon Hill and in cities and towns across the state. During Library Awareness month, let us ensure that one of those choices is that basic library services are provided to the people of Massachusetts.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.