Read a book to someone you love.

Friday, May 11, 2007

State aid for public libraries

The Vermont house and senate have passed a bill to “study” state funding for public libraries. Vermont is one of eight states that do not provide state aid for libraries, and this year the Vermont Libraries Association made a real legislative push to have Vermont join the ranks of states like Mississippi, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Kentucky in supporting the operations of libraries.

We began the legislative year requesting $1.6 million to support the 178 public libraries in Vermont. This would equal about 10% of each library’s operating expenses. We were well received at the statehouse; every lawmaker has a least one library in their district and who does not want to be a supporter of libraries? But when it came time for the appropriations committees to consider direct aid there was little support.

The study committee bill does give us the opportunity to make our case and we will be at the statehouse on the opening day of the session next year. Whether we are successful will depend in large part on our ability to mobilize library patrons and board members around the state to advocate directly with their representatives.

An excerpt from the bill that passed, H-99:

(a) The joint fiscal office and the legislative council shall identify other states that are comparable to Vermont in terms of population or population density.

(b) After acquiring information regarding libraries in states of comparable population, the JFO and LC shall:

(5) Compare the level of state funding provided to public libraries in Vermont to state funding provided to public libraries in states of similar population.

(6) Identify the additional funding that will be required to meet the growing demand for services from public libraries in Vermont and maintain the quality of their operations.

(c) The JFO and LC shall submit a report detailing the results of their study to the general assembly by January 15, 2008.

The full text of the bill can be found by going the Vermont Legislature’s web site and entering the bill number, H-99.