Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Low budgets compromise services
Keywords Library services, Collection management, School libraries, Public libraries
A report released recently by the Association of Philadelphia School Librarians (APSL) says that the city's public school libraries are badly understaffed and stocked with books that are on the average 25-30 years old. A story in the October 13 Philadelphia Inquirer cited two reasons for librarians' retention of outdated materials: they are reluctant to discard old books because they fear they will have little left, or they have no time to weed collections. To make matters worse, many of Philadelphia's students are from impoverished backgrounds and have few books at home. Philadelphia schools spent about $5.50 per child for library books and materials in 1997-1998, while the national average was $14.24.
Budget cuts have forced the closing of the Cranesville School library in Dalton, Massachusetts, following the elimination of 17 paraprofessional positions in the district this academic year, including the manager of the elementary school's library. The other two schools of the Central Berkshire Regional School District lost library paraprofessionals but still have full-time librarians. Although Principal Bruce R. Collins closed the Cranesville School library because it could not operate without staff, he said that the idea of a school with no library is an absurdity. The library is the heart of an elementary school building. Cranesville parents planned a presentation pushing for the reopening of the library at the school committee's September 23 meeting.
On August 29, Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia closed the main library and all 20 branches through Labor Day (nine days) to save about $115,000 and deal with a budget shortfall. Not only the buildings, but the catalog and Internet connections were shut down, and the book-return drops were sealed. Overdue fines were suspended, and full-time staff were given the option of taking vacation days or unpaid leave. Funding for the library system dropped about 10 percent, or $330,000, last year. The board had been unsuccessful in convincing the city council to place a library funding initiative on the ballot in the November 20 civic election. The library had also closed for a week during the same period (the slowest days of the year) in 1997 for budgetary reasons.
Hawaii Governor Benjamin Cayetano's ongoing plan to balance the state's budget has forced the Hawaii State Public Library System to come up with proposals for cutting $391,000 to $782,000 from its current-year allocation of $19,617,274. At its September 2 meeting, the library board approved Hawaii State Librarian Virginia Lowell's recommendations for reducing staff and library hours, eliminating bookmobile services, cutting all emergency hires (temporary staff who fill vacancies on an emergency basis), and downsizing student workers and substitutes. The budget outlook for the next four years in Hawaii continues to look grim. The restrictions for next year's budget are twice this year's amount. Furthermore, the library system's total operating budget had been cut by 25 per cent in 1995 and never restored.