Late last month, the announcement that libraries at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton would have to cut $1.7 million from the materials budget sent staff and students around the campus into an uproar, with students and faculty flocking to defend a library system that they see as key to their success as scholars. While UNT Provost Warren Burrgren has walked those statements back in recent days and laid immediate concerns about budget cuts to rest, the controversy started a conversation on the campus about how the library should be funded that isn’t dying down, even as cuts to the library budget are halted or postponed.
Four months after Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, retired Detroit Public Library (DPL) employees are still struggling with anxiety over the fate of their retirement benefits, which are all-but certain to be targeted for significant cuts as part of a wide-ranging strategy to return the troubled city to solvency.
As a result of the federal government shutdown, many resources that researchers, academics, and library patrons depend on—like the Library of Congress (LC) archives—have been rendered unavailable in the last week. The bad news is that, eight days in and with no clear end to this stalemate in sight, there’s no telling how long those resources might be on lock down. The good news is that a variety of other institutions are stepping up to fill in the gap and make sure a government shutdown doesn’t turn into an information shutdown.
As states across the nation tighten their belts, library budgets have landed on the chopping block more frequently in the past few years. This year, The Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) received eight requests for Maintenance of Effort (MOE) waivers that would let states continue to receive previously approved matching grants through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) even though the funds they’re intended to match will not be provided. That’s more than the IMLS has received in any year since the financial downturn of 2008. Of the eight applicants, only three—Hawaii, Oklahoma, and South Carolina—were awarded waivers. The remaining five states—Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas—stand to lose federal funding as state legislatures fail to live up to their end of the LSTA grant agreements, which are meant to supplement state spending on library programs, rather than supplant it.
After late night wrangling failed to produce a short term spending bill that could pass both the Senate and House of Representatives, the U.S. federal government has shut down for the first time in nearly two decades. As of this morning, federal agencies that support the mission of libraries around the country — from the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences to the Library of Congress have found themselves forced to close their doors and furlough the majority of their staffers.
Community outrage over having weeded a quarter of a million books into dumpsters isn’t the kind of public relations brouhaha that any library relishes dealing with. That scandal, though, may be the least of the problems for the Fairfax County Public Library, VA, (FCPL) where the library’s Board of Trustees has pressed pause on implementing a strategic plan that was supposed to help guide the library forward.
Students and faculty of North Carolina State University (NCSU), Raleigh, are now diving into the first full school year with a new library at their disposal on the school’s Centennial Campus, and the rest of us get to watch as a new model hits its stride. The Hunt Library, which opened its doors in January after much anticipation and had the spring to work out any kinks, articulates the vision of the team at NCSU’s libraries. That team is led by Susan Nutter, vice provost and director of NCSU’s libraries and LJ’s 2005 Librarian of the Year. (We have a saying at LJ, “once a Librarian of the Year, always a Librarian of the Year,” and she keeps living up to it.)
An eight-hour marathon budget meeting on Tuesday, September 10, ended when Miami-Dade County Commissioners broke open the piggy bank, emptying a $7.8 million library reserve fund to avoid cuts in library service that would have slashed operating hours at many branches and eliminated hundreds of staff jobs. (Those plans themselves represented an improvement over earlier scenarios which would have closed as many as 42 of the system’s 49 branches.)