10 States Sticking Up for Public Libraries

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Public libraries provide the surrounding population with more than “just books.” Even the most underfunded in the United States still features one or two programs meant to engage the community, such as story time and free or extremely inexpensive classes and basic computer and peripheral access for families without such perks at home. Considering the recession, though, libraries across the country, no matter their socioeconomic standing, suffer from cutbacks threatening their survival as well as the survival of their communities. Most people realize how essential libraries prove to the people they serve, and when it comes to preserving their role, they stand up and demand their peers to stand with them. The following states should prove inspiring when it comes to stories of the citizenry fighting to ensure their favorite community centers remain afloat.

  1. Georgia:

    One of the most creative strategies wielded to keep public libraries afloat involves partnering with other educational initiatives around the state, as evidenced by Georgia’s incredibly successful campaigns. The Georgia Public Library System enjoys pairing up with institutions such as the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, Georgia Environmental Facilities, The Georgia Council for the Arts, and plenty more. Each one yields a different benefit appealing to individuals and families alike, such as free parking and even admissions vouchers to different parks and attractions, summer reading contests, art shows, and other community-oriented events providing opportunities to learn anywhere and everywhere throughout the state. As of December 2011, these arrangements saved the GPLS over $4 million in programming expenses while simultaneously preserving its commitment to equal-opportunity education and involvement.

  2. Massachusetts:

    Back in 2009, Governor Deval Patrick proposed the closing of the State Library of Massachusetts in order to save the state some money. Didn’t happen. Thanks to a major social media campaign, a petition, and letter writing, the citizens of the state rallied behind their beloved institution and worked to ensure this cost-cutting measure never bore fruit. Thousands of people took to Facebook and Twitter to express their dissent over the mere suggestion that the SLM ought to close its doors forever, and the government responded favorably to their demands, re-working the budget to allow for its services to continue.

  3. Texas:

    The Texas Library Association provides its advocates with all the talking points, materials, and other resources necessary to convince detractors of the institutions’ inherent worth. In fact, the staggering majority of citizens polled either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with bolstering the libraries’ funding. Ninety-four percent, no matter their political leanings, consider them an amazing value for their tax dollars. February 2013 will see residents of the Lone Star State taking to the capital building in Austin and online venues for Legislative Virtual Action Day. This event brings together supporters from around the state (if not nation) to rally in support of the library. Specifically, to keep them both funded and open, even in the wake of budget cuts.

  4. Illinois:

    The “Restore funding for IL library Systems” Facebook page launched in 2009 and currently boasts 4,654 members protesting cuts and shutdowns. Because so many Illinois residents – including, most influentially, Secretary of State Jesse White – supported the initiative through demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, and the ubiquitous social media outlets, lawmakers decided to veto legislation that would’ve slashed their funding and maybe even close a few branches in its wake. By January 2010, libraries systems like the one serving Shawnee happily reported receiving the money necessary to stay open, keep programs on the calendar, and order more shelf fodder.

  5. Michigan:

    For fans of epic trolling, the strategy wielded by a Troy-area library and its supporters will certainly prove incredibly appealing. When local Tea Party members protested paying the 0.7% tax meant to keep the system running, the impacted institutions and Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide Agency set up a website inviting residents to a (fake!) book-burning party to celebrate their closing. Enough citizens took it seriously and headed to the polls to ensure that the shelves of Troy Public Library never wound up in the parking lot, soaked in gasoline and flambeed. And the joke worked! Reminding voters on why libraries exist rather than emphasizing a (comparatively) small expenditure proved key in winning the day for the community.

  6. Arizona:

    Glendale, Arizona’s grassroots campaigning – which occurred largely in digital spaces like Facebook and Change.org – proved pivotal in allowing the three branches to stay open in the wake of major budget cuts. The 461 signatories and 323 Facebook members celebrated the 2012 overturning of Proposition 457, which ensured the libraries’ fiscal survival for the next year. But even with this reassurance, Glendale residents still feel a bit uneasy when it comes to their city leaving enough in the budget to keep their beloved community centers moving forward. They pay close attention to the Phoenix Coyotes, an NHL team, whose presence in the city they fear might compromise future funding.

  7. California:

    Library-loving Californians have been wringing their hands and rallying behind their favorite branches with the new year rolling in, promoting legislation to support funding for them and other essential educational institutions. Senator Lois Walk especially piques their interest these days, as she hopes to lower the voting threshold when it comes to approving library-related projects and funding. A Facebook page titled “Save California Public Library and Literacy Funding” boasts 1,022 members eagerly following the future of community-sanctioned reading and education initiatives in the state, though plenty more show up to the polls than social media outlets.

  8. New York:

    Even though New York state boasts one of the most iconic libraries of contemporary times, it still began debating over whether the budget to New York Public Library and other systems deserved a slashin’. Specifically, it would’ve seen a $37 million cut in the City alone. But citizens would have none of that, and while hours still had to be reduced, the institution found itself sighing in relief over finances. At least 130,000 people contributed their time, efforts, and money – a total $144,000, in fact – to assist the library in serving the community. However, the old, much-loved NYPL still needs donations to maintain some of its programing and order books to keep up with mounting demands.

  9. New Jersey:

    Eighty-three percent of New Jersey citizens believe libraries fully deserve public financial support, and the state’s relevant advocacy organization allows them to sign on as proud Library Champions. Notable participants who consider themselves a member of this group include bestselling authors Judy Blume and Janet Evanovich, and their responsibilities include contacting legislators on important library issues, blogging or posting to social media to increase awareness, encouraging friends and neighbors to sign up for a card and stop by for programming, and more.