May 27, 2015

New Orleans Library Foundation Board Members Resign in Funding Scandal

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Only days after a definitive victory at the polls, the New Orleans library landscape was making news again—but this time it was the Foundation, not the library itself, and the news was not good. On May 5, an investigative report by correspondent David Hammer for local New Orleans station WWL-TV revealed that between 2012 and 2013 Irvin Mayfield and Ronald Markham, who then served on the board of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) Foundation as chair and president, respectively, gave the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) at least $863,000 in funding originally made to the NOPL Foundation. At that time both Mayfield and Markham were also drawing annual salaries of $100,000 apiece from the nonprofit NOJO, Mayfield as its founder and artistic director and Markham as president and CEO.

New Yorkers Rally for Library Funding

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New Yorkers turned out in force at City Hall on May 15 for a lunchtime rally and press conference protesting the deep cuts to library funding outlined in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s FY16 Executive Budget. The proposed budget, released May 7, allocated $313 million for the city’s public libraries—down a full $10 million from FY15, and $65 million less than 2008. A full budget restoration to pre-recession levels would allow libraries across New York City’s three systems to provide core programs and services, and keep neighborhood branches open six days a week, advocates argued. Libraries are also requesting $1.4 billion in capital funding over the next ten years in order to make documented infrastructure repairs.

New Orleans Votes to Reinvest in Libraries

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New Orleans voters went to the polls on May 2 and showed their love for their library system, approving a raise in property taxes that will add up to $8.2 million a year for the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL). A whopping 75 percent of voters approved—a margin of more than 9,000 votes. Starting in January 2016, the 25-year, 2.5-mill property tax increase will allow some branches to extend operating hours to seven days a week, and will help rebuild the 7th Ward’s Nora Navra Library, damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

MO 2016 Budget Drops Aid to Libraries Almost 80 Percent

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Difficult budget decisions, including probable cuts, await libraries throughout Missouri after the legislature drastically slashed state aid in two critical areas as part of a $26 billion 2016 spending plan adopted by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Connecticut and Vermont Libraries Await Decisions on Budget Cuts

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CT-VTlogoOther than the proximity of the two New England states, the library systems of Connecticut and Vermont don’t have much in common. They don’t share similar funding arrangements or infrastructure. But both states are facing potential budget reductions that could significantly impact their public libraries, and both have called on residents and legislators alike to speak up for their library services.

MO Withheld Library Funds Restored; 2016 Funding in Flux

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Missouri libraries last week celebrated the long-awaited–and surprising–news that Gov. Jay Nixon was releasing almost $6 million in FY15 state aid that had previously been withheld since June, an abrupt resolution to a stalemate that spawned a growing statewide lobbying effort.

Expanded Hours Approved for San José Public Library

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All 23 San José Public Library (SJPL), CA, branches will stay open an additional two days per week starting July 1 under a city budget plan stewarded by Mayor Sam Liccardo, whose political support is helping to fast-track a long-awaited realization of the library system’s top priority.

Sudden Sweet Briar Closure Leaves Library in Limbo

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Sweet Briar College, a 114-year-old women’s liberal arts school in Amherst County, VA, counts among its graduates author Elaine Dundy, class of 1943; film critic Molly Haskell, class of 1961; and U.S. ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell, class of 1989. No doubt members of the class of 2015 will go on to great things as well. But there may be no class of 2016. On March 3, interim president James F. Jones Jr. announced that the college would close after the summer session, a statement that shocked most of the Sweet Briar community.

KY Appeals Court: Library Taxes Legal

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Library officials across Kentucky exhaled with relief on Friday, March 20, after the state Court of Appeals ruled that systems in two northern counties correctly and legally set their annual tax rate based on a decades-old law that allows revenue to be raised without voter approval. The decision reversed two lower-court verdicts and means the Campbell and Kenton County systems will not have to roll back their tax rates 35 years or more, which would have triggered staff layoffs, branch closures, and other draconian cuts.

NOLA Special Election To Decide: Increase Hours or Shutter Seven Branches?

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New Orleans residents will go to the polls on May 2 to vote on a proposed new library millage which, if adopted, would pump an additional $8.25 million annually into a system that officials say is underfunded and barely holding the line on current services thanks to a reserve fund that will run dry in 2016.