“Recession” Funding for Public Libraries – It’s Critical!



You have seen the headlines: Gasoline prices at an all time high. Foreclosures up 100%. Home sales down again last month. Food prices up 40%. Possible food shortages this summer.

As the economy continues to weaken – libraries must be prepared.

During slowdowns or recessions – consumer discretionary spending falls. Retail sales fall. Entertainment spending drops. Vacations are downsized and big ticket item and new home purchases are delayed. In all of these economy sector’s revenues will fall. Government tax revenue will surely fall as well. Many of us been through these cycles before. We know that revenues will be down.

The question is: In challenging economic times – will school and public library funding be cut to help balance strained state and local budgets?

But what of the school and public library demand. With entertainment, education and most other discretionary spending cut, families will turn to the public library. The free resources: information, books, audio, video, children’s and adult programming as well as internet access will all face increasing demand.

An economic downturn also means higher unemployment. Job seekers will turn to the library for employment information, resume and computer skills help as well as internet access. The digital divide is real and will grow during tough economic times. With many large companies moving to online job postings, online applications and screeening tools – those who become unemployed or underemployed without internet and computer access will miss out on those job opportunities.

With the possible cuts to school library programs, the public library will be an even greater resource for local students. When the internet access at home is gone, students must turn to the public library.  Books and other circulating resource needs will go up as students will have limited time within the library to complete research projects. The materials will have to go home.

Strong library programs have been scientifically proven to contribute to student academic success. If school library funding is cut – there will be a negative impact on student achievement. Can the public library help minimize this negative impact – of course we can.

As adults look for ways to stretch their budgets – consumer information needs will grow. As retirement and savings accounts face downward pressures – stock, financial and general economic information needs will grow. As individuals decide to cut back on medical care spending – health information needs will grow.

What can libraries do?

Redouble your outreach and marketing efforts to help those customers who may not have used your library services in the past know about all your materials and service offerings.

Have renewed conversations with your local legislators and other elected officials. Make sure they understand the critical role the library will play in the support and vital interest for the well being of your community. Families, adults and students will turn to your library in increasing numbers.

Thank them for their previous support and begin the dialogue to inform them of future needs you may expect. Libraries have been excellent stewards of the public funds. I know we will continue to provide a high return on their local investment in the library.

Talk to your local school librarians. Know how their library program may be affected by budget cuts. Discuss new and improved collaboration in support of the the students needs.

Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you are prepared with materials, programing and resources for these new customer demands. Prepare for a possible budget squeeze. Talk to your staff about being fiscally prudent and start discussing ways to conserve on staff and reprioritize spending patterns. Consider some job sharing and allow staff a greater say in new ways to consider floor coverage and operational issues.

The tools, information and resources the library provides will help your community weather the economic storm of this weakened economy. By improving job outlooks, minimizing unemployed time, saving consumer dollars as well as providing family educational and enrichment resources – the library truly will become a critical community asset. 

How well you handle the needs of first time or “long lost” returning customers will go a long way toward improving the standing , funding and support for your library when the economy does improve.

With strong planning and improved community outreach let’s continue to build “great libraries”.



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One Response to ““Recession” Funding for Public Libraries – It’s Critical!”

  1. Terrilyn Stiver Says:

    truly very good perspective on the topic and rather nicely written, this definitely has place a spin on my day, quite a few thanks from the USA and retain up the very good work

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