| By Christi Buker, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Library Association |
| Originally posted on The Daily Item, March 2017 |
Investing in libraries is an easy decision.
As we enter the state budget season, with the cuts and consolidations of departments, and tightening budget restraints, Pennsylvania libraries are the keystone that can fill the gap—holding all of these services together for our residents with a more efficient use of funding.
Libraries are highly efficient—sharing/borrowing is significantly less expensive than a citizen trying to purchase the same database access, resources, and expertise, as well as a real community center. Every $1 invested in libraries, yields nearly $5.48 in services and resources back to the community. What a great rate of return! It is not merely the fantastic value of the services, resources, and expertise that matters, but that libraries, when properly funded, have a positive impact on the education, employment, and economy of their communities.
Public libraries rely on a combination of state and local funding, donations, and even fundraising to offer services. Libraries have been operating with a public library subsidy that is at the same level as 2010. This library subsidy is vital to support the 456 public libraries and 629 outlets in Pennsylvania.
Despite increasing expenses and tighter budgets, libraries have found creative ways to continue to extend hours and services to their residents, especially as other community services are cut or organizations are closed.
Here are a few examples of what is happening in PA libraries today:
Workforce development opportunities at many libraries. For example, at Citizen’s Library in Washington—where a patron shared:
“As the administrator of a nonprofit, my company paid to send me to QuickBooks training in a neighboring county. I took on the position of bookkeeper when funding cuts happened and our bookkeeper had to be released. The QuickBooks training required a day off of work and the course really did not focus on nonprofit uses of QuickBooks. Once our library district added Gale Courses, I was able to learn at my own pace with no travel expenses. It was a much better experience for the needs of our organization.”
Early education pre-K programs that are curriculum-connected to develop strong literacy skills, using early learning manipulatives, age-appropriate technology to support vocabulary acquisition, so they start kindergarten ready to read! Storymobile at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport visits 100 childcare classrooms every 2 weeks to promote early reading skills, and lets kids take books home.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) after-school programs that include maker-spaces, 3-D printers, and computer coding inspire and prepare youth for careers in these high-priority occupations.