Saturday, March 12, 2011

Originally published in the California Focus March 2011

Greetings from the California Area Public Library.

In the past few weeks the news has been abuzz with the President’s new budget. I think many of us would agree that the government needs to spend cautiously, part of that is prioritizing the services that we receive, how those services are funded and looking at their efficiency. As you may have guessed, these cuts will directly affect libraries across the country. The proposed budget would cut $20 million from current funding for libraries. I understand that there is a need for many services funded through government money, but libraries provide a variety of quintessential services that are important to maintaining an educated citizenry.

Let’s look at the services a library provides. Essentially it is all about information. We provide free access to a wide range of books, magazines, journals, newspapers and various other types of media. We have computers with a range of software that can be used for helping find jobs, personal research, polishing that last minute work project, completing homework assignments or just surfing the internet and making a few online purchases. We provide free Wi-Fi connection for devices that are properly equipped. We have Story Time up to four times a month so children can come in and have some fun, hopefully building a foundation of love for reading and learning (and giving Mom and Dad a little, much deserved break.) We have trained staff that you can turn to when you need answers to questions. Anything from locating the proper tax forms and genealogy to academic research and homework help. If we cannot find the answer, we can at least give you some resources that will help you track it down. Libraries serve as community centers for the young and old alike providing a safe haven to pursue their interests in an environment that encourages personal growth, socialization and enlightenment.

People often stop by, grab a few books or DVDs, use the computers to access the internet, use the free Wi-Fi, or bring their children in for Story Time; but when was the last time you considered how we provide services to the community at little to no cost? We rely on generous contributions from the people we serve, area businesses, the local governments as well as state and federal funding. Some years are better than others, but whenever a segment of our support system is forced to make cuts it seriously affects the library, and by extension the community at large.

Now let’s look at the efficiency of the library system, or the return on investment (ROI). A 2004 study found Pennsylvania had 630 libraries that serve almost 12 million people. The libraries had over 40 million visits, 40% of them from children. They also discovered that for every tax dollar invested $5.50 in benefits was provided. Without our public libraries there would be an economic loss of $1.3 billion dollars. In the month of January alone the California Public Library provided services that would have cost approximately $8,792 if you had to purchase them.

As you can see, public libraries are well worth the money that is generously donated to support our mission, but just as important as the financial aspects of the issue is the idea of support in general. We exist to provide you with services, and our goal should be to not only to have the information available but to provide an opportunity for the community to expand its horizons. Next month I hope to discuss how you can help us achieve that goal.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Brian K Dawson
Library Director
California Area Public Library

Phone: 724- 938-2907
Facebook: search for us by California Area Public Library or
Twitter: @directorcpl

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