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Louisana eliminates state funding for libraries

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posted on Jul, 9 2012 @ 09:16 PM

Originally posted by schuyler

In my view, as a practioner in the field, the local public library is far better off creating their own future with their own local public input. If you don;t have state aid to local public libraries, count your blessings.

Well, what do you say in the case presented here, where it would appear property taxes arent enough to fund much more than a minimal part time staff?

I agree with the sentiment that more local control is a positive thing, but i think having some equity and homogeneity amongst various counties within a state is a positive thing. Why should only the wealthy counties get the good centers?

You mentioned that poorer areas of Washington, where you live and worked, didnt have a problem raising funds based on property taxes. Can you explain how that worked, more? How did they survive, specifically?
edit on 9-7-2012 by stanguilles7 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 9 2012 @ 09:28 PM

Originally posted by The Vagabond

But taking this stuff together with what I've actually seen in practice, it appears that what they do is fire the public employees and replace them with minimum wage part timers to reduce payroll, cut back on services deemed too expensive, start sending late accounts to collections (ie: selling debts), and start programs that qualify them for additional state and federal funds such as their adult literacy program link. They also have a considerable number of volunteers working for them, which of course reduces the need to spend government funds on creating jobs. The volunteers of course don't have to fill out a W-2 and think they are working at the public library- why would they assume anything other than that the money they save the library is going into other library programs- where else could it go right? Well, it goes to stock holders.

They get the entire budget, and any more funds they can qualify for, and all they have to do is spend less than they take in without falling outside the criteria of the funds they are receiving- and who the heck is checking really?

In other words, they are ALLOWED to skim off the top, as long as they keep the politicians out of trouble with the public.

And this is a system that you think is an improvement? Less hours of access for the public, less staff, and the savings in public money going to a private company?

posted on Jul, 9 2012 @ 09:31 PM

Originally posted by The Vagabond
You know if southerners fit the stereotypes that some people seem to be operating from in this thread, there probably would have been a couple of duels by this point. Let's give each other a little more credit than to correlate intelligence to geography (which, ironically, is a little less than intellectual in and of itself).

Some of the most hippie dippy liberals i have known came from southern LA. Good kids. Some of the most redneck jerks i have known are the dudes i grew up with in California. Stereotypes that pretend all one state is perfectly represented by the pretenses of the their politicians are a limiting perspective.

posted on Jul, 9 2012 @ 09:52 PM
Please remember that there a VAST areas in this country where there is no availability of any type of high speed internet (other than satellite- which is a less than optimal source). I'm not saying people can't afford it, I'm saying it simply IS NOT available.

In these areas of this supposedly first-world country the local library is the only public option.

We don't all live in urban sprawl.

posted on Jul, 9 2012 @ 10:06 PM
reply to post by stanguilles7

Not at all, I think it's a shame. I'm making the point that this kind of public-private hyrbid also lacks the stomach for risk and innovation, and is just a scam designed to save politicians from being the ones who have the libraries die on their watch.

I believe that free public service is best, but that speaking in terms of dialectics, it is most likely that public libraries will go down to these private-public contracts, then they will eventually start charging when the public funds get tight enough, which will be bad and will get out of control, but the silver lining is that with that money they are charging they probably will start competing for market share and make the changes that the library system needs... then the people's interest in libraries will go back up due to modernization and they will want free public service back, and will eventually get it.

I would prefer to skip the middle man by having student groups at public schools succeed in lobbying for and putting their own work into building the next generation library from the very beginning on the free public service model, preferably in time for municipalities to follow suit.

They will need money, and this won't all come from the tax payers in this economic climate, but as I said it could be raised creatively without going right after the consumer.

As a tech hub it would make sense for corporate America to reach out to this next gen library with free equipment to increase public interest in and use for such things, and influence their purchasing decisions.

It would also make sense to follow suit on what bookstores are doing and lease a little space in the corner to a coffee vendor- no harm to the reader but still a revenue stream.

That's almost certainly the tip of the iceberg- I'm not a library scientist but I would imagine there are all kinds of cutting edge new tools that they can provide at a price to those who need more than can be provided on a mass scale yet, and that would pay for phasing it in for the use of the general public a few years down the road.

posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 02:12 AM
Heck, they don't need no libaries, they just need a Bible! It's got literature, songs, stories, poetry, and REEL SCIENCE with allll the evidence anyone needs, right in the book itself! And if you ain't a believer, you is a Heretic! (and they never end up too well) God Bless Southern Ignorance and pride in it!

posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 01:46 PM

Originally posted by stanguilles7
You mentioned that poorer areas of Washington, where you live and worked, didnt have a problem raising funds based on property taxes. Can you explain how that worked, more? How did they survive, specifically?

In Washington most libraries are "rural library districts" composed of several counties banding together to form a district. There are some single-county districts and some city libraries, such as Seattle, that are autonomous. The poorer areas of the state are, generally speaking, in the eastern half, which is agricultural. Most of the smaller towns have "annexed" to the districts. Those which have not contract with the district. Libraries are funded by property taxes at the nominal rate of 50 cents per $1,000 valuation, which amounts to about 3% of property taxes collected. Washington has a constitutional limit of 1% for property taxes (Compare your own state, please.) plus "special levies." So if a community wants to build a pool, they can try to get 60% (not 50%) of the people to go along. these are considered "voted" taxes as opposed to statutory taxes.

Without getting into detail (unless you want me to) the tax rate is rarely at its full rate of 50 cents because of tax limitation measures. My library is hovering near 35 cents/$1000 right now. Some libraries also depend upon forest excise taxes as a big chunk of their income.

The key to serving poorer areas is a bigger district. Poorer areas are more sparsely populated, so a greater amount of property tax area per person evens out the playing field. These districts tend to have a large number of smaller libraries scattered over a larger area. That's not to say some districts aren't "richer" than others. King County (surrounding Seattle), for example, is a rich district because they get property taxes from industry such as Boeing and Microsoft. The opposite can also be true. My library serves a fairly good sized county of 230,000, but much of the industrial land is owned by the military, which means it is not on the property tax roles. If we collected property taxes on these industrial sites, we'd be in much better shape.

One of the things all these libraries do to overcome disparities is share, both internally and externally. If you live in Podunk and you want a book, you can place a hold on it at the little library in Podunk or from home, and it will be shipped to you or the branch within a day. Courier routes using small vans make this possible. ALL these libraries, both little and big, are completely automated with modern equipment. This allows turnaround to be extremely fast. We also cooperate between library districts, so if you want a rather esoteric title from Seattle, we can get it for you. All our library catalogs are accessible to each other. In all but a few cases you can get a library card for any district no matter where you live. This also allows access to online databases you could never afford on your own.

All this is done without state aid. There is a State Library, but it is an equal, not dominant, and it was almost shut down entirely a few years ago in a budget saving move similar to Louisiana. Fortunately we had a Secretary of State who managed to preserve it. It's not that we need the state for anything, but the historical documents were worth preserving.

I'm running out of room here, so I'll make another post to explain to you how state and federal aid to libraries is a bad idea and how the entire mess mirrors our problems as a nation.

posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 03:53 PM

I won every grant I ever applied for. That’s a “brag” I’m not proud of and I hope to show you why. I “won” hundreds of thousands of dollars for the library, usually technology related. Here’s how it works:

Our library served everyone equally. Oh, we usually had a children’s department with specialists who gave story times and had special programs encouraging children to read, but otherwise everyone was equally treated. But one day our Director discovered that there was money available from the Social Security Administration to start up special programs for seniors. The idea was to hire people, buy large print books, buy vans, and instead of depending on old people who were not ambulatory to use relatives and friends to get their books, we would go to them as an “Outreach” service! This was a personalized service: One librarian, one person at a time.

What a wonderful idea! Who would be against that? No one! So we set it up, hired five new people, bought thousands of new large print books, talking books, etc. along with a couple of vans to haul it out to this “unserved” populace. Wildly popular, it was also very expensive on a “per person” basis. Then Social Security said, “No more money” so we had to absorb the costs into our normal budget.

Then someone came up with another great idea. They decided that children in daycares were also an “unserved” population. There was no particular evidence of this. Indeed, many daycares carted their kids to the library every week. But some did not, so, therefore, they were “unserved.” This person wrote a grant, made the argument, and suddenly we hired a librarian, bought a car, fixed up “daycare collections” and began to visit daycares. Then the money ran out and we were forced (because this was a grant requirement) to continue the service within our normal budget. No big deal because property taxes were rising and so was our budget.

The method is to first define a population, then divide it into two. You then show that your target group is “unserved” and write a grant to serve them. You get some money to great fanfare, use it for a year until it runs out, then are compelled to serve the “unserved” population you invented in the first place. You balkanize the population in order to expand your services.

Now what happens when the dependable normal budget begins to constrict? We had an initiative pass that limited budget increases to 1% a year, no matter what inflation was. Property values declined until we bumped up against the 50 cent levy (see post above) so we didn’t even get the 1% per year any more. So we had to cut, but where?

Could we cut Outreach? That would save a cool $450K. Noooo! That would hurt old people! You can’t do it. Could we cut daycare? Noooo! That would hurt children. You can’t do it. Could we go to the people and ask for an “override” election to get beyond that 1% rule. Sure. They turned us down 70% to 30%. People do not want to pay more taxes. They are fed up with an ever increasing tax burden and an ever reducing amount of services returned. It’s a vicious spiral.

It’s a vicious spiral we could have avoided if we had not been seduced by federal and state grants that had the effect of making us dependent upon them to continue the programs we so eagerly started, programs we had gotten along fine without for fifty years, but were now suddenly necessities. Had we not attempted to expand into every niche we could invent and instead concentrated on providing the very best public library service we could for everyone as a whole, we would not be in this situation. We could have endured a recession by being prudent stewards of the tax dollar.

But we did not do this. Instead, we’re hoisted on our own petard. We argued with the public that they needed an Outreach service because it was humanitarian and fair and equitable and “right thing to do,” and we convinced them so well that they now say we can’t reduce it. We created dependency. We took responsibility from the populace and gave it to ourselves because we thought we could do it so much better and more equitably than they could. Now the populace agrees even though we can’t afford it.

So I began refusing grants. The Gates Foundation wanted to give us “free” computers because we were so poor. I refused them. My colleagues around the state were amazed. “Schuyler, how can you refuse free computers?” I said because Bill Gates wants to force me to install not just Internet access, but word processing, games, and a whole suite of software that he will then expect me to support. I don’t need his computers because they come with too many strings attached.

posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 03:58 PM
Then one of the local Indian Tribes said they would like to give us some computers for the branch on their land. I said, No thanks. They were amazed. Why would I refuse free computers? Because I had more old computers behind my desk than I knew what to do with, all of which would do the job they wanted done. I could take some free bandwidth, though. How ‘bout free fiber optic to the library? That would be cool.

I got free bandwidth, an ongoing cost, since the tribe has a fiber optic ring on the Rez with fiber to every household. (Think about that for a minute.) Once the line is laid it costs them nothing incrementally. They could pull it, but then that would cut Internet to the library. So I wind up saving hundreds of dollars a month to get access to my remote branch. Win-win for everyone. Kind of turned the tables on them.

Now we were lucky because we have never had state aid to local libraries, one of very few states that do not, but the point is we never had it to lose. And though the state has cut the budget of the state library itself, state budget cuts do not affect us. I do not think we did this on purpose. I just think we lucked out. We made plenty of mistakes, but now we know what to avoid.

When you look at the Louisiana situation, it is not nearly as bad as has been portrayed. They lost less than a million dollars for the entire state. A million for the entire state? That’s not very much. Here's an article that shows the depth of the issue. Most of this funding went to technology. I notice one librarian lamenting that she could no longer afford maintenance contracts on her PCs.

WTF??? Cancel ‘em! That’s wasted money in the first place! A PC will break within the first six months under warranty, or it will last until it’s dead, statistically speaking. One of the first things I did was eliminate $30K worth of maintenance contracts on terminals/PCs. If one breaks, fix or replace. It’s a whole lot cheaper. And let’s not say that Marion can’t do it. We have a librarian who worked in Louisiana her last job. She can program Cisco routers. This is a good example of a waste of grant funds.

Also notice in the article where they lament that their nearly $2 million in “extra” federal grants can’t be used to make up for this shortfall because the grants require specific uses. See what I mean? Grants from the state and feds create dependencies. It’s like putting out a squirrel feeder. The squirrel will yell at you if you forget his meal which he is no longer grateful for; he deserves it!

Does this not remind you of the nation as a whole? It’s the same scenario.

1. First balkanize the country. Create racial and generational strife.
2. Define some groups as unserved. Food stamps. Tuition assistance
3. Grow government to “serve” those needs
4. If cut, whine about the inhumanity of it all.

This was a good move on the part of Louisiana. These libraries will not suffer unduly, but will wind up relying on themselves. This was an easy one because they just cut off a money flow for hardware and materials. There are no layoffs in this scenario. In states where “intermediate” state-run districts actually provide services such as automation systems, cuts will be much more difficult and much more devastating if they do occur.

edit on 7/10/2012 by schuyler because: screwed up the url

posted on Jul, 10 2012 @ 09:05 PM
reply to post by schuyler

wow. skyler for mayor.

that was incredibly informative and insightful. i have a whole different perspective on the issue now.

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