Thursday, May 31, 2012

Devastating Budget Cuts Proposed for the Library

funding graph
Our City Council will have many tough decisions to make very soon. At the top of the list for us are the distressing cuts proposed to the Birmingham Public Library System’s budget, nearly $125,000 less than last year’s budget and $800,000 less than previous years. The deepest cuts are concentrated in the library’s materials budget, used to buy traditional and electronic books, databases, music, movies, DVDs, and more. This reduction—coming on the heels of previous extreme cuts in this line item—is devastating. Additional cuts to supplies and janitorial services are also very serious and threaten the library’s ability to provide services in a safe and clean environment.

As the city’s oldest cultural institution, the Birmingham Public Library serves more than 2 million citizens every year. Contrary to popular belief, the use of the library has gone up over the last several years with an explosion of patrons using free downloadable books and electronic resources and more people taking advantage of the library’s free educational programming. Cutting the book budget is a serious loss to our patrons. “This is the library’s core business,” said Director Renee Blalock, “and without current materials we simply cannot serve a growing public and fulfill our mission.”

Since 1886, Birmingham citizens have depended on the library for educational support for all ages. Children depend on free learning materials to supplement schoolwork. Entrepreneurs depend on finding the most current resources for starting a business, improving the business they have, and finding new markets for their products. People looking for employment depend on access to computers and databases.

The proposed expenditure on learning materials will fall below $3 per capita. This first class institution that serves and represents the City of Birmingham is in grave danger of not meeting the most basic standards for libraries. Birmingham will lose access to books, DVDs, databases, magazines, newspapers, and much, much more if these cuts are approved.

On behalf of our Board, staff and patrons, please communicate to Birmingham’s City Council members the importance of restoring the library’s budget to the highest level possible. Write, call, or visit your councilor to spread the word that now is the time to come to the aid of the BPL to help the library continue to serve Birmingham according to its mission! Our city’s citizens deserve better.

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