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Do you know where the money to provide you with library services comes from?  Although the set up is different in different states, in Iowa libraries get primary funding from property taxes (which means where you live is tied to where you get library services). They also get support and funding from the State of Iowa. In fact there is an entire state government department, Iowa Library Services (ILS)/State Library, that provides support. Without this support from the state government, Iowa libraries couldn’t do many of the things we do now.  State Library Services arrange the Open Access program so even though your home library is one place, you can get an open access card and still use most of the services (except those barred by license agreements) at any other library in the state. (For example,  if you live in Solon, but work in Cedar Rapids, you can use the Cedar Rapids Public Library.) They help organize the InterLibrary Loan system so libraries can borrow books from each other to loan to patrons as needed. They organize group buys to get libraries better deals on everything from paper to software to databases. They help organize a multi-state Summer Reading Program, letting libraries all over the area use the same materials so they don’t have duplicate efforts and have each library create their own. They staff a law library providing specialized answers to legal questions to anyone in the state. They also organize efforts to track how libraries are doing in the state and reach out to many of the smaller libraries that are often staffed by people without libraries degrees to make sure that they have help and support in figuring out the right way to do things, that they have experts that they can ask if they don’t know something, and so that they provide the best service possible to all Iowans. There are even bigger plans in the works, they want to work towards things like a statewide system to provide eBooks to Iowans among many other goals.

Although some of their services are directed to the small public libraries across the state, even Kirkwood benefits from the group buy of EBSCOhost, among other services.

Spending only an average of $35.21 per person annually (state and local monies combined), in 2011 Iowa Libraries:

  • Were open 975, 015 hours
  • Delivered more than 67,000 programs attended by 1, 465, 349 people
  • Checked out nearly 82,000 items each day
  • issued library cards to 69% of the people in Iowa (and that is only active cards being currently used)

So why bring this to your attention now? The state has been facing budgetary issues for years. While spending over all has increased, increases have not been directed at libraries or library services. In fact, Iowa Library Services (ILS)/State Library’s budget has been consistently cut year after year. Services that once helped all Iowans (microfilming Iowa’s newspapers for preservation, reference question back-up for questions that libraries were unable to answer locally, deposit collections that allowed smaller libraries a rotating collection of books, a medical library that was allowed to become unusably out of date before it was cut ) have all been cut and no longer exist. A major reorganization/consolidation and downgrade of services offered was the result of the last fiscal go round and resulted in the consolidation and reduction of the first line support for smaller libraries the Library Service Areas (LSAs). If the expected cuts are made in the budget in the coming legislative session, something that is considered a major service or even multiple major services will have to go. It may be the State Law Library, it may be the summer reading program, it may even be the group buy of EBSCOhost that would mean having to shift budget resources and making budget cuts necessary even here at Kirkwood.

While libraries truly impact the lives of Iowans, there is no organized statewide citizen group to support them. While librarians are very effective in getting the word out to our elected representatives and often get large numbers of librarians and library workers to contact them and share the story of how important libraries are, they are often met with the response that our opinion doesn’t count because we work in libraries (we pay taxes and vote too, but the first seems to overrule the rest in their minds). What Iowa Library Services (ILS)/State Library are looking for is a budget that when corrected for inflation matches their 1984 level of funding. They are significantly below that now. They would take at least not being cut further.

That’s where you come in. Find out who your local representative is and send them a letter and tell them that you use the library, that libraries matter, and you don’t think their funding should be cut. Libraries change lives and so can you, if you take the time to send a message today.

Contact your legislator:

http://www.icpl.org/elected/state.php

And it wouldn’t hurt to spread the word to higher officials, especially the Governor:

http://www.icpl.org/elected

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