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Despite Their Importance, Libraries Facing Funding Challenges

Libraries have been a lifeline in this tough economy, but they need our support to continue to help those in need.

From early literacy materials for the youngest patrons to special programs, computer training, job search support, and much more, Wisconsin libraries — public, school, academic, and special — are social centers that enrich the daily lives of residents.

They welcome all ages to a world of lifelong learning.

The state’s libraries are busy places, serving more than 35 million visitors a year. Libraries play an integral role in supporting students and families, job-seekers, career professionals, seniors, and young adults who can access technology, books, media, and more at libraries.

However, at a time when so many citizens are cash-strapped, many Wisconsin libraries have sustained significant budget cuts that have impacted service hours, programs and resources.

State support for Wisconsin’s 17 regional public library systems was reduced 10 percent in the last budget, placing a strain on the primary support for resource sharing and cooperation. The elimination of the requirement that communities sustain support for their local libraries threatens Wisconsin’s national lead in resource-sharing. Library resource sharing is a common sense way to save taxpayer dollars, but it means communities must all work together or there will be a patchwork of haves and have-nots for library services.

Libraries provide Internet computers to 7.5 million patrons annually. However, insufficient state support for broadband services affects the ability of libraries to effectively access electronic resources and provide robust Internet access to the unemployed, underemployed, or others who rely on their libraries for information and public resources. Libraries need our support so that they can support our residents’ lifelong learning.

This week is National Library Week, and this year's theme is “You Belong @ Your Library," which has never been more true. Libraries have been a lifeline in this difficult economy, reaching out to all ages with programs and services to meet local needs.

From now until Saturday, no matter your interest or need, visit your local library. Take advantage of the wonderful resources that are available, and thank our librarians and library staff for making information and education accessible to all.

Tony Evers is the superintendent of the state Department of Public Instruction.

MDS April 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
CowDung - The logic is that there are private parks (waterparks, theme parks) and there are private museums (House on the Rock) but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be public museums and parks. And most booksellers are big supporters of public libraries and don't see them as competition, but as places that foster curiosity and a love of books and other media.
CowDung April 10, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Booksellers don't consider the libraries to be competition, but libraries seem to view booksellers as competition... I'm not claiming that having private entities means that we do not need public entities. Not sure why that anyone would think that House on the Rock would be at all interchangeable with the Milwaukee Public Museum. What I am saying is that just because something is seen as a need in one area, it isn't necessarily a need in a different area. I see libraries as having a much more important role serving impoverished inner city residents than in serving those that live in a wealthy suburb. In one area, it is a necessity. In another area, it is a luxury. Placing a library in a wealthy suburb at the expense of a library in the poor inner city is wasteful use of our tax dollars.
Randy1949 April 10, 2012 at 06:28 PM
@enicar333 -- No one likes paying taxes, but they are a necessity. You really want to have to pay out of your own pocket for a standing army to protect you from foreign invaders? Don't think so. So do you favor a society where only those who can pay the private fees get to use the road, get an education, have the fire-fighters come when their houses are burning? A public library is a place where the least fortunate have the access to the information to better themselves in whatever way.
Dr. Jodie April 15, 2012 at 12:34 PM
When times are hard for everyone, institutions need to be creative and survive on their own merits and not just due to mandated public funding which becomes scarce. Several years ago I asked the Muskego public library if I could use their facility(large rooms) to hold educational classes for my business. They said "no, that is not our policy". Perhaps now that they need the money, they could change their policy.
Menoparent April 18, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I remember when in high school, the library was very crowded every night. Students needed the books there for information and reports for homework. Now I don't know if it's quite like that, but with budget cuts and saving money comes jobs gone. Cutting everything comes with a cost to everyone even if you don't think you are directly effected.

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