Library Legislative Day held March 26 in Raleigh
Governor Pat McCrory has released his proposed budget for 2013-15, and it calls for a cut of 4.8 percent in state spending on public libraries. Total state funding is currently at just over $13 million spread among all public libraries in North Carolina. Since 1998, per capita state funding has dropped steadily from $2.24 to less than $1.40 today. The proposed cut would drop it lower.
“Libraries throughout western North Carolina will be hard-hit by a nearly 5 percent reduction in state monies,” according to Karen Wallace, Director of Fontana Regional Library. Even before the proposed cuts were announced, the North Carolina Public Library Director’s Association was active in spear-heading a statewide effort to protect and promote library funding .
Part of that effort is Library Legislative Day, held in Raleigh on March 26 and designed to bring attention to the value of libraries in the budget process. The day is intended as a time for library supporters to visit state legislators and advocate in favor of library funding.
Locally, Fontana Regional Library is using Library Legislative Day as a kick-off to a public awareness campaign about the importance of state funding for libraries.
Fontana Regional Library, which comprises the six libraries in Macon, Jackson, and Swain Counties, is asking patrons to contact local and state elected officials to voice support for public spending on libraries. “We are beginning with a petition drive,” said Fontana Regional Library Director Karen Wallace. “If patrons would like to show their support, they can do so by signing a petition that will be available at all our member libraries. Of course, we also encourage them to contact legislators directly.”
In a service area with a combined total population of more than 88,000, according to the 2010 census, Fontana had nearly half a million visits to its member libraries in the 2011-12 fiscal year. In addition, there were more than 92,000 computer use sessions during that same time. According to Wallace, “Our data shows that we provide computer and high-speed internet access to many people who do not have these resources at home. In addition, we have staff available to offer help when needed.”
Any resident wishing to sign a petition in support of library funding may do so at their local library. The petition reads, "I believe that the public library is the heart of my community. It enriches my life and inspires my future. For these reasons, I support the funding of public libraries with my tax dollars."
For more information about the variety of services and programs offered by Fontana Regional Library, please contact the Macon County Public Library in Franklin at 524- 3600 or the Hudson Library in Highlands at 526-3031 or visit www.fontanalib.org.