Tuesday, February 15, 2011

IMLS, LSTA Funding in Jeopardy

All IMLS, LSTA Funding in JeopardyAmerican Libraries: 2.15.11 by Beverly Goldberg

A bill that is coming up for a vote this week in the House of Representatives calls for the elimination of all Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funding, including Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding, for the remainder of FY2011.

Reaction to the introduction of Amendment 35 to the Continuing Resolution was swift. “To eliminate this vital federal agency would be a disservice to those families who have come to depend on their libraries,” declared Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington Office. “LSTA funding provides needed support to establish statewide and regional services to help local libraries save money and meet the changing demands and needs of their communities.”

The ALA Washington Office has posted a link to its Capwiz email interface to facilitate library advocates contacting their congressional representatives to urge them to oppose Amendment 35 to the Continuing Resolution because:

Libraries are essential to every community, and federal funding is critical for ensuring that library resources and services remain available to their constituents. LSTA supports all kinds of libraries including school, academic, and public libraries. Public libraries are the primary source of no-fee access to the internet and are active in assisting the public with online job searches, e-government services, and lifelong learning.

Sheketoff emphasized that loss of the funding would prevent libraries from continuing to “play an essential role in today’s communities, providing access to technology and the information people need to search for work and find jobs, apply for e-government services, and get homework help,” concluding that “the American public is poorly served if federal funding and library support are eliminated.”

Amendment 35 was submitted for House consideration by Rep. Scott Garrett (R–N.J.).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Camden Loses Soul for Good: Closes Main Library

Camden loses its soul for good -- closes main library
Trentonian: February 10, 2011

CAMDEN (AP) — The latest blow to this downtrodden city came Thursday as the downtown branch of the public library was closing for good.

The main branch of the Camden Free Public Library, in a high-ceilinged former bank building, was a victim of the same budget crisis that resulted in layoffs last month of nearly 400 city government employees, including nearly half the police department and one-third of the firefighters.

Now, many residents of this city that ranks among the nation’s poorest and most crime-ridden will need to search elsewhere for access to computers or books. The men who play a trash-talking brand of chess in front of the big windows say they’ll take their boards to the one remaining branch, a bus ride away.

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The library made news around the world in August when its directors announced plans to close all three branches. No U.S. city this large, with about 80,000 residents, had lost all its libraries before.

The problem was money. The cash-strapped city government, which found its costs mounting, its tax revenues shrinking and its aid from the state reduced, was cutting its contribution to the library system from more than $900,000 last year to less than $300,000.

News of the total shutdown brought a partial rescue. One tiny branch in the remote Fairview neighborhood was closed in October. But the city bumped its support to $389,000, enough to keep the remaining two branches open until February. The Camden County library system agreed to take over what remained.

But the main branch would have to shut down. READ MORE !

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Free Library of Philadelphia: Economic Impact

Fels study shows Free Library’s economic impact
Penn Current: February 3, 2011 by Tanya Barrientos

It’s not easy to put a price on the acquisition of knowledge, professional development and community pride.

But that is precisely what officials at the Free Library of Philadelphia asked Penn’s Fels Institute of Government to do by creating an economic impact report quantifying the value of the city’s vast library system in dollars and cents.

“We wanted to be able to make a statement about the important role we play in the economic development of the city,” says Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library. “People know a library is nice to have. But we wanted to show how important the resources are that we have, to show that the library is a place where people can go and get help moving forward, to find help getting back to work, to think about their lives, and all for free.”

The study—prepared by Fels Senior Consultant Deborah Diamond, Penn Institute for Urban Research (IUR) Fellow Kevin C. Gillen and Fels graduate student Marissa Litman—is one of the first to quantify the economic impact of a library system the size of Philadelphia’s, with 54 branches and an operating budget of about $87 million.

The findings, Reardon says, were illuminating. According to the report, in addition to contributing to the literacy and cultural welfare of city residents, the library system last year generated more than $30 million of economic value in business development and it also increased property value.

According to the report, an estimated 8,600 businesses benefitted from the library system’s resources, providing entrepreneurs with information that helped them start or grow their enterprises. The Free Library also helped nearly 1,000 Philadelphians find jobs directly through institutional resources. Those jobs, the report notes, will translate into $30 million in earned income in one year and will generate $1.2 million in tax revenue for the city.

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Diamond says the study examined four categories of economic impact: Literacy, Workforce Development, Business Development and Neighborhood Impact. Literacy, she explains, is one of the most fundamental and vital skills provided by public libraries. Being able to read is critical in the modern, knowledge-based economy. In 2010, the report shows, the Free Library loaned to visitors $18.4 million worth of literacy-related material, provided $2.6 million in literacy-related programming and $818,000 in literacy-centered activities.

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“As we work toward our own economic recovery,” Reardon says, it’s important to know “our impact is real.” READ MORE !