Since 2006, the Knight News Challenge has encouraged innovators to respond to open calls on a series of themes—past challenge topics have included networks, open government, and strengthening the Internet. On Sept. 10 the Knight Foundation opened the most recent News Challenge: How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?
From the Andrew Carnegie–era temples of learning to the small cinderblock “Lindsay boxes” built during Mayor John Lindsay’s administration from 1966–1973, New York City’s 207 library branches are as varied as its population. And like much of the city, they are feeling the crunch of budget cuts and neglect.
The continuing struggle to fund library service in Miami, Florida, and surrounding Dade County took a happy turn for a librarians and advocates in this month. On Tuesday, July 16, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to increase the property tax in the county slightly, increasing the funding available to the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS).
The hike would leave libraries with a budget of approximately $52 million for the coming year. That figure is short of the $64 million that advocates were aiming for, but represents a major step up from the $30 million earmarked earlier this year in a budget proposed by Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Most libraries know what its’ like to struggle with finding funding. Getting a levy or tax hike passed is hard work. Living through lean times that freeze hiring and stifle collection development can be trying. But when the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly, it can be even worse. In order to provide some assistance when eleventh hour budget cuts come knocking, EveryLibrary, the political action committee devoted to strengthening the place libraries have at the civic table, is working on a new program with just these sorts of dilemmas in mind—the Rapid Response Fund.
Near the heart of a revitalized tech boom in Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA, is growing rapidly, topping one million residents this year. The San Jose Public Library (SJPL) will have plenty of concerns about how best to serve those new users in coming years. How to fund those efforts, though, won’t be among them. Earlier this month, San Jose voters passed a continuation of the Library Parcel Tax (LPT), which helps to fund SJPL operations, with an astonishing 81 percent of voters in favor.
In early May, the Gates Foundation took much of the world by surprise by announcing that the massive charitable organization would stop offering grants and support to libraries around the world in the next few years. Libraries have long been a pillar of the Foundation’s strategy, and while the funding will be missed, librarians are already looking ahead at how to preserve the work that’s been done and find ways for other organizations to step into the space the Foundation will leave behind.
Lobbying for libraries can be a painfully earnest affair. But not so in New York State, where the New York Library Association (NYLA) adopted a playful new strategy to reach legislators and their staffs where they may be at their most receptive—relaxing with a drink after work. NYLA didn’t break the rules by buying beverages for lawmakers…it simply provided a coaster for them.
As part of an overhaul of its budgets and strategic priorities, the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon plans to trim its campus library system from seven branches to three, resulting in much of its collection being moved to offsite storage. Library officials spoke of the plan as in line with their vision for the future of the campus libraries. But some faculty members have publicly questioned the moves, leading one dean to be fired in the wake of a letter he penned criticizing the university’s plans.
In northern Kentucky this spring, the more things change the more they stay the same for the embattled Campbell (CCPL) and Kenton County Public Libraries (KCPL). After the state General Assembly came close, but ultimately failed to deliver a legislative solution to their longstanding legal woes, the library systems have little recourse except to wait for an appeals court decision that will help determine how they—and potentially the majority of Kentucky libraries—can raise tax revenue.