DATE: September 05, 2008
MBLC Takes a Stand on Question 1
An initiative to repeal the state income tax has qualified for the November 2008 ballot, as Question 1. A previous income tax repeal initiative appeared on the 2002 ballot, and received 45% of the vote (885,000 votes).
At its September 4, 2008 monthly Board meeting, The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) voted to oppose Question 1 on the basis on that its enactment would essentially eliminate library services, programs, networks and entire systems that have made Massachusetts libraries among the strongest in the nation.
The Board unanimously approved the following motion:
Be it resolved that as the primary stewards of library service for all residents of the Commonwealth, the Board of Library Commissioners opposes Question 1 on the basis that its enactment would have a severe impact on all types of libraries in Massachusetts and would result especially in an overwhelming and wholly destructive loss of public library services that are fundamental to the educational, social and economic well-being of all residents of the Commonwealth.
Income tax revenue generates about $11 billion of the state’s $28 billion annual operating budget. The Secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance stated that the loss of the income tax would result in a 60% across the board cut in state budgets. Rather than a single across the board budget reduction, the Board believes that it is much more likely that all state funding for library programs would be eliminated.
“Everything that the MBLC and the libraries worked so hard to create since the Board’s inception in 1890 would be destroyed,” stated MBLC Chairman, George T. Comeau. “Instead of every resident in the Commonwealth having equal access to library services, libraries would be a luxury reserved for wealthy communities that can afford to pay for them.” Commissioner Em Claire Knowles added, “At a time when we are seeing library use surge, the repeal of the state income tax, would take us back to the library of 1890 and really hurt our residents.”
Massachusetts Libraries have experienced an increase in usage for the eighth straight year. In 2007 there were over 31 million visits to the library (an average of 4.8 visits per resident), patrons borrowed more than 52 million books and materials from public libraries (an average of 8.1 items per resident) and patrons used the public Internet computers over 10 million times.
The elimination of the state income tax would impact Massachusetts libraries in the following ways:
Impact on programs of the Board of Library Commissioners
• The Board of Library Commissioners itself would continue to exist, but it would have no budget and no staff
• Elimination of State Aid to Public Libraries in place since 1890
• Elimination of regional library systems and library of last recourse
• Elimination of talking book libraries for the blind and disabled
• Elimination of funding for automated networks and licensed electronic content
• Elimination of matching funds for private fund raising
• Elimination of the public library construction program
• Elimination of Federal Library Services and Technology Act grants and statewide services
Impact on local public library service
• The public library system of 1889 which is no system at all, but rather a stand-alone library in some towns and no library at all in others.
• No assurance of free access to other public libraries either for direct borrowing or for interlibrary loan.
• Public libraries would be able to charge fees for service to non-residents and they would be able to charge for interlibrary loan requests.
• Interlibrary loan would exist in a dim shadow of what it is today as there would be no regional delivery system to move materials among libraries.
• Many public libraries would have vastly reduced hours of service as the standards and requirements of the state aid program would not apply.
• Local municipal budgets would feel the strain of losses of all varieties of state aid with many libraries threatened with closure and many would close.
• Automated networks would decay very rapidly as grant funds for capital improvements would not be available, annual state support would be eliminated, and libraries simply could not afford the increased ongoing cost of membership.
Impact on public library users
• Residents of towns that choose to fund a public library would have access to the collections and services of that library.
• Residents of towns that choose not to fund a public library might not have any library service at all.
• Library hours would be cut back severely.
• The user would not have free access to any other public libraries and would not be able to go online and request materials from other libraries.
• The user would not have access to any online electronic content currently provided by the state, the region or the network.
• This is the library of 1889.
Commissioner Irving Zangwill summarized the impact, “This is the very worst that could happen. To try to rebuild after something like this would be impossible.”
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.