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No additional money for libraries but a few bright spots

At a glance: Public libraries will receive $53.5 million in state funding under Gov. Tom Corbett's 2013-14 budget.

 

What it means: Consider it deja vu: The $53.5 million state subsidy to public libraries remains unchanged from that of the last couple of years.

 

State funding to libraries has not seen peak levels of $75 million approved under the Ridge Administration for years. Budget cuts to libraries that began under the Rendell Administration have continued under Corbett, chipping away at operating budgets even as demand for services and resources continue to increase.

 

“We’re grateful that Governor Corbett has not reduced funding and support particularly as use of libraries is only going up and people are wanting more types of things like e-books in addition to the things we’ve been providing,” said Jonelle Darr, executive director of the Cumberland County Public Library System.

 

One bright spot in library funding: the small increases earmarked for a statewide initiative for database research. A near $250,000 infusion to this line item means public libraries will benefit from purchases made at the state level on their behalf.

 

"You try to provide as many services and improve what you have but it’s getting more and more challenging." - Jonelle Darr
 

“Those databases are really provide wealth of resources for us,” Darr said. “It used to be that if you used to do research you would need to visit a library to look at the journals and magazines, you don’t have to do that anymore. That can be accomplished online.”

 

Funding for services to the disabled and visually impaired also remains flat at last year’s level of $2.5 million.

 

The State Library, which has reduced hours and staffing to contend with budgetary shortfalls, will receive an $11,000 increase in its $1.9 million subsidy.

 

Verdict: This is a hard to call but it feels like a draw.

 

Reduction in state support in recent years has forced libraries to close branches, slash hours and leave open positions vacant. On the other hand, the new budget calls for no new cuts while increasing funding to a few statewide initiatives.

 

“For Cumberland County itself, I’d say it was a draw, but probably on the negative side,” Darr said. “It’s difficult in difficult economic times...this hurts us even more. You try to provide as many services and improve what you have but it’s getting more and more challenging.”

 

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