Libraries decry proposed cuts

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Libraries across the state are bracing for budget cuts.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget contains $2 million worth of cuts to library programs, including a $950,000 cut to the ConnectiCard program, according to the Connecticut Library Consortium.

“The governor’s proposals will be devastating to our residents,” Beacon Falls Public Library Director Sue Dowdell said.

The ConnectiCard program allows residents to check books out of other libraries around the state.

“You can walk into any library and borrow a book, then drop it off in any library in the state and it will get back to them,” Prospect Library Director John Wiehn said.

Jocelyn Miller, director of the Whittemore Library in Naugatuck, said the elimination of the ConnectiCard program would have a huge impact on the borough’s library. In 2014, the library loaned out 3,343 items to people from 74 different municipalities around the state, she said.

In addition to the ConnectiCard program, libraries would also lose funding for the associated ConnectiCar program.

ConnectiCar is a service that delivers books from one library to another, Wiehn explained.

In addition to being able to make a greater variety of books available to residents, inter-library loans are important because they save libraries money. Having access to other libraries’ inventories means smaller libraries don’t have to spend as much money on books, Wiehn said.

“Libraries across state saved $60 million in 2014 by borrowing items and not buying them,” Wiehn said.

Libraries that lend books also benefit. They receive 22 cents for each item they lend.
Wiehn said the New Canaan Library received approximately $30,000 last year just for lending items.

While the loss of the programs might be difficult for larger libraries, it’s a much harder burden to bear for smaller libraries.

“Our small library cannot hold all the materials that our patrons want and need,” Dowdell said.

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, called the choice to cut funding a “tough decision.”

“We believe deeply in the capacity of libraries to bind communities and bring neighbors together. We also are proud to that Connecticut passed the first legislation nationwide to create a statewide e-book purchasing program,” Puglia said.

Puglia explained the Connecticard program is not being eliminated. Libraries can still continue the program and accept existing cards using the funds that they have, he said.

“But, ultimately as we build a brighter Connecticut for tomorrow by making tough decisions today, we need to be creative in how we adapt to and tailor offerings for an information age,” Puglia said.

While Malloy’s budget does not actually eliminate the ConnectiCard and ConnectiCar programs, Miller contended, the lack of money will cause the programs to cease operating.

“Once the funding is cut, if people want to borrow library books from us we’d have to pay to ship them through UPS. Most libraries in the state can’t afford shipping costs, so they would stop loaning books to non-residents,” Miller said.

In addition to the end of the programs, the budget also eliminates $590,000 for the Connecticut Library Consortium. Malloy would do this by eliminating the state statute that created the consortium and requires it to continue to be funded.

The consortium allows libraries around the state to combine their buying power and get large discounts on books, audiobooks and office supplies.

Dowdell said the Beacon Falls Library saves over $28,000 a year by buying items through the consortium.

“Our library material budget is just over $23,000, we save much more than we spend. We would not be able purchase many of the electronic databases that we do have. Our print materials will cost us much more, causing us to be able to purchase fewer materials at a time when there will be a greater demand,” Dowdell said.

Wiehn said, if Malloy’s proposals pass, it will be a burden on the residents in every town.

“If this money goes away libraries won’t loan books out to non-residents,” Wiehn said. “Whatever your collection consists of is it. You’ll only be able to borrow from the library in your town. Libraries will shut their doors to their neighbors.”

The Democrat-led Appropriations Committee and state Republicans have proposed their own budgets that would continue funding for the library programs.

1 COMMENT

  1. Their budgets should be completely gutted. When classics are given away for free on most handheld devices including those with no monthly bill, it is really not beneficial to operate paper book libraries. Perhaps they can create a system to refurbish donated devices and work out an agreement to loan electronic versions of books. Just the greenhouse gasses we could save by shutting every library in the country down would be tremendous. At least streamlined for the technological reality that is our world today. Libraries are dinosaurs due for extinction.