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.)
With belts tightening in departments across campus, the University of South Florida library faced cuts to its hours, which had been 24 hours a day, five days a week. Administrators, though, seemingly underestimated how much USF students counted on the library to play host to all night study sessions. When the reduced hours went into effect on August 26, USF students returned to school to find a library that opened at 7:30 a.m. weekday mornings, only to shutter its doors at midnight. In response, hundreds of students protested the decision with “sit-outs” and letter writing campaigns. Those protests paid off last week, when administration and library officials announced the return of the library’s popular ‘up-all-night’ schedule.
Cengage Learning reached an agreement with an ad hoc committee of first lien lenders to reduce approximately $4 billion of the company’s $5.8 billion of outstanding debt, the company announced yesterday. In conjunction with the deal, and as the company announced it might in May, Cengage and its domestic, wholly owned subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. (Cengage’s non-U.S. subsidiaries are not included in the filings and “will continue to operate in the ordinary course without interruption,” the company said in a statement.)
Oklahoma’s Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) cut $1 million from its operating budget in anticipation of lost revenue from the state, which recently made changes to its tax code. For the fiscal year which began July 1, the budget is now $26.4 million. That includes $607,000 in materials cuts, and $327,000 in personnel cuts. (The latter will come from retirement and attrition, not layoffs).
Six branches would be closed, 33 FTEs eliminated, and Sunday hours eliminated system-wide in a worst-case budget scenario approved by the Jacksonville Public Library, FL’s board of trustees, who now have no option except to wait and see whether a lengthy city budget process takes a favorable turn. The Jacksonville Public Library is by no means alone in its plight. Branch closures and staff cuts are on the table at library districts around the nation as the summer budget process unfolds. Omaha, NE; Flint, ME; Falls City, OR; and the huge Fulton County, GA, system all have funding issues to resolve.