Library Funding

U.S. libraries have taken a major hit during the recent recession. Fighting to have their voices heard among those other important issues, including education and health care, libraries have been losing the funding battle. In 2012, Louisiana joined 10 other states that provide no direct aid to public libraries: California, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. From 2001 to 2010, states have slashed library aid 37.6 percent. The main source of federal library funding comes from The Institute of Museum and Library Services. With the institute’s funding cut, local funds are now the main source of money for public libraries. States provide 7.5 percent of funding, while local governments cover 85 percent of library finances. Grants and gifts make up about 7 percent, and the federal government pays just 0.5 percent of a library budget.

While the future of libraries may sound grim, there are signs of slow improvement. Revenue from public libraries rose from $11.3 billion in 2010 to $11.4 billion in 2011, a significant difference to the 8,956 libraries in America. Some cities are willing to help fund the gap left by losses of federal funding. Seattle in August 2012 approved a $123 million local real estate tax to be paid over seven years in order to reinstate previously closed library branches that had been shut down due to the recession.

In a recession, people are more likely to turn to the library for sources of entertainment, as well as free Wi-Fi and computers to apply for jobs. The San Francisco Public Library has even hired a social worker to help the homeless and jobless try to get back on their feet. Even with a lack of funding, libraries still continue to be an exceedingly valuable community resource.