October 31, 2014

Libraries Across CA Face Hits

By Andrew Albanese, Norman Oder, & Michael Rogers

PL aid may be halved and support for universities reduced

The National Council of State Legislatures says states have at least a collective $17.5 billion budget gap to fill before FY03 ends, which for most states is June 30. Two-thirds of states report declining revenues and more than half face expenditures that exceed levels projected in their FY03 budgets.

For the next fiscal year, it’s even worse: California, for example, must contend with a $35 billion deficit, and both public and academic libraries have been targeted for reductions in FY03/04. Gov. Gray Davis has proposed halving state support of California’s 179 library systems, from about $32 million to $15 million a year.

Davis has suggested a way for libraries to recover some funds: charge patrons $1 to check out books from libraries outside their county and $5 for interlibrary loans from outside their county. That has met with resistance from librarians and patrons. The introduction of the budget is the first step in what will likely be a long, contentious process.

Struggling right now

Meanwhile, several California jurisdictions are struggling with current budget deficits. The Oakland Public Library is considering closing seven of its 15 branches, which, combined with other cuts, would save $2.1 million; the budget was reduced three percent in December. Another plan would keep all the branches open three days a week.

The Sacramento Public Library already trimmed hours at seven branches January 9. The county Board of Supervisors said the reductions of operating hours from 263 weekly to 246 weekly is the result of a financial shortfall in the money from the transient occupancy tax collected from hotels and motels. Officials are considering reduced hours at several branches of the Long Beach Public Library as well as a plan that would have libraries taking turns closing an extra day each week.

Universities face pressure

California’s ongoing budget crisis hit the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems hard. Davis has proposed $326 million in budget reductions for the 23-campus CSU system and $300 million in cuts for the nine-campus UC system. In total, the cuts reflect a nearly five percent reduction in total funding for the state’s higher education system.

A preliminary breakdown of the governor’s proposal at CSU showed that $58 million in cutbacks were scheduled to come from “academic and institutional support” across the 23 campuses, which includes libraries.

It is unclear how the state’s university libraries, still coping from a recent midyear budget decrease, would manage with the new constraints. The news was not unexpected. CSU-Fresno Dean of Libraries Michael Gorman said in December, after Davis’s midyear slashings were announced, that the 2003 – 04 cuts were likely to be “just dreadful” and he was bracing for massive decreases in book-buying and serials acquisitions, among other measures, including possible reduced hours and staff for 2003 – 04.

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