Texas Governor Signs Budget Cutting State Funding for Library Services by 88 Percent

The new state biennial budget (FY 2012-13) in Texas, signed Tuesday by Governor Rick Perry, will reduce state funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by 64 percent and will cut state funding for the agency's library programs by 88 percent. According to figures provided by the state library, the overall state library budget will shrink from $19.8 million each year of the two-year budget to $7.2 million. Funding for the state agency's library programs will go from $12.8 million to $1.6 million. The Library Development and Library Resource Sharing divisions will be merged into a single division,

Budget cuts may not stop here

"This is a terrible storm that we must weather together," said Peggy Rudd, the director of the state library in a July 26 presentation to the Texas Library Association. "It will only be much worse if we don't work together to survive this," she said. "I don't think the budget cuts will stop here," Rudd said. "The state still has a large structural deficit (about $9 billion), Medicare/Medicaid costs continue to soar, and the smoke and mirror gimmicks have been used up," she said. "I don't know when we'll be required to make additional cuts, but it could be as early as next spring," she said. Jerilynn Williams, the president of the Texas Library Association and the director at Montogomery County Library, said the situation was dire. "Everybody is just shaking their heads because this is more drastic than any measures we've seen in the past, and I've been around Texas libraries for more than 40 years. This is the worst Texas has ever seen," she said. "We are still reeling because programs that have been in place for decades, as well as the direct aid to libraries program will be no more when this budget goes into effect," she said.

19 percent reduction in state staffing

The budget will oblige the agency to "scale back dramatically, and we've had to re-examine and reconfigure nearly every facet of our services," Rudd wrote in a June 22 memo to the state's public library directors (see full text below). The agency will have to lay off 20 workers, and it will not fill ten more vacant positions. When combined with the six staff members who have announced plans to leave before the end of the year, total staffing is being cut 19 percent, from 193 FTEs to 157. "That is a devastating loss of talent," Rudd said. All funding for the Loan Star Libraries program has been eliminated. This program provides direct aid grants to public libraries throughout the state. The program received $13.4 million for FY10-11. In her memo to the state's public library directors, Rudd wrote that "creating the Loan Star Libraries program is one of my proudest accomplishments as Texas State Librarian. To dismantle this program just as we are beginning to see great returns on this modest investment in our state's public libraries is particularly painful." Brenda Branch, the director of the Austin Public Library, said eliminating Lone Star Libraries has an immediate impact even on a large system such as Austin's. "We had four really critical positions funded by that program," she said. "We could not operate without them." In order to maintain those positions, Branch will have to take positions away from public service and absorb the costs into her own budget. Williams said the program allowed her to expand services and also provided a useful supplement when her local funding was being cut back. She recently used the state money to help bridge a gap in her materials budget, she said. State funding for the TexShare database program was cut from $8 million to $2.5 million. The legislature directed the state library to raise an additional $500,000 in fees for this budget cycle, which will come from a 35 percent increase in fees paid by the libraries for this service. The program is a collaboration established in the early 1980s among public and academic libraries under the administration of the state library to provide access at a reduced price to online resources. "Those fees are collected from public and academic libraries who are also hurting badly in their budgets," said Ed Seidenberg, deputy director of the state library. "And, in fact, some of the public libraries use their Loan Star money to pay that fee, and so now they not only are losing the Loan Star money, but they will have to come up with funding from their own budget to pay this fee," he said. For libraries like Austin Public Library, "It shouldn't be a big problem," said Branch, the director, "but for smaller libraries it will be very difficult." Four hundred of Texas's 561 public libraries are classified as rural.

LSTA funding shrinks, too

Because of Congressional action, the agency will receive $10.6 million in federal Library Services and Technology Act funding for FY12, $900,000 less than in FY11. "We expect further reduction in federal funds in subsequent years because we will not meet our federal maintenance of effort requirements," Rudd wrote in her memo. LSTA is the sole funding source for the state's regional library systems and interlibrary loan (ILL). The regional systems will receive $2.5 million in FY12, down from $4.2 million, but "the future beyond FY12 is uncertain," Rudd wrote. "The regional library systems which have been around since the '70s basically are going to be so underfunded that a number of those locations that have been providing services and consultations and continuing education in the far-flung parts of our very big state will be closing their doors next year," said Williams, the TLA president. As for ILL, Seidenberg, the deputy director, said that the state library is committed to interlibrary loan and will continue to cover the costs of providing ILL through OCLC's Navigator service. "While the massive size of the state's budget shortfall necessitated broad measures, the cuts to libraries and educational institutions (including public schools and institutions of higher education) are shortsighted and undercut the very basis for economic growth and a vital educational infrastructure," said Gloria Meraz, the TLA's director of communications. In a statement on his website, Perry said the budget will help the state's economy. "... We followed the directions laid out by voters last November, and balanced our budget by prioritizing and reducing spending without raising taxes. I'm proud of Texas lawmakers' hard work to accomplish this goal, which positions Texas for continued job growth and ongoing prosperity for Texas families in the years to come." Texas State Librarian's Memo to Public Library Directors
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