DATE: February 28, 2008
Budget Request Heard Before the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means
On February 27, 2008, representatives from the library community provided testimony before the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means regarding the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner's (MBLC) State Budget Request for fiscal year 2009.
MBLC Chair Dr. Em Claire Knowles began the testimony and introduced MBLC Director Robert C. Maier who thanked the committee for their support, including funding increases in the FY2008 budget for the administration of the Board of Library Commissioners, Talking Book programs for the blind and physically disabled, State Aid to Public Libraries, and Library Technology and Resource Sharing.
In their testimony both Maier and Massachusetts Library Association President Kimberly Lynn discussed the increase in demand for library services as libraries continue to be underfunded.
Maier noted that public libraries were used more than ever last year with total circulation growing to more than 57 million or about 8.5 items per resident-the 8th straight year in which a record was set. He also pointed out that during the financial crisis between FY2001 and FY2008 the Board and Massachusetts libraries have accommodated reductions in Board administration, cut 16%; Regional Library Systems, cut 14%; State Aid to Public Libraries, cut 4%; Technology funding cut 36%.
"Reductions in these accounts have passed costs back to libraries at a time when local budgets are already under pressure. This legislative agenda supports services needed by all libraries and residents of the Commonwealth and puts libraries back on course toward equal access for all," stated Maier.
"Libraries help people help themselves," said Ms. Lynn. Noting that third-grade reading scores are often used not only as a predictor for high school graduation rates, but also for future incarceration rates, she asked the committee "Do we pay for libraries now, or do we pay a higher price later in dollars and dead-end dreams for drug treatment programs, prisons, welfare, and the like?"
"Funding for libraries is still, in 2008, lower than the FY2001 appropriations," added Ms. Lynn. "In fact, these library accounts are the only ones that have not recovered or increased in all these years. I can tell you, the library community is beyond frustrated."
Steven M. Rothstein, President of the Perkins School for the Blind also provided testimony.
Senator Stephen M. Brewer, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, responded to the testimony by stating that he has always supported libraries but added that funding in tight economic times is difficult.
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.