By YANAN CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING—Michigan may cut state aid to libraries by 40 percent next year, in addition to cuts in state money for local schools and public universities.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would cut support to libraries by $2.3 million for 2011-12.
“It’s an urgent cut,” said Gretchen Couraud, the executive director of Michigan Library Association. “We have seen a 40 percent cut this year, but a 76 percent cut since 2000.
“The 11 regional library cooperatives will close in two years because of this cut, and people in those cooperatives will lose their jobs,” she said.
In addition, people rely on libraries as resources to find jobs, Couraud said.
“People now are worried about a 15 percent cut to public universities,” said Couraud. “But libraries are 40 percent.”
And she warned that some libraries may be forced to close for budget reasons.
Meanwhile, Snyder’s plan includes $950,000 to support the Michigan eLibrary.
The Michigan eLibrary is an online catalog that allows users to borrow from more than 43 million items such as books, audiobooks, music and movies and have them delivered to participating libraries. The system covers more than 400 state libraries.
As for the proposed e-Library funding, Couraud said, “It’s a wonderful thing. We are grateful for the governor for recognizing the value of the eLibrary and put it in the budget for the first time.
“People need the e-resources and it should be funded,” she said.
Nancy Robertson, state librarian at the Department of Education, said, “State aid is providing only a small portion of public libraries’ budgets.
“Although they will feel the cut, it’s not their main source of income,” she said.
“It will have a little bit of an impact on library collaboration,” Robertson said of Snyder’s proposal.
But Tara Conaway, the director of Flat River Community Library in Greenville, said, “This kind of cut will hurt the small libraries. There are growing needs for people under this bad economy to use libraries.
“Some people told me they cannot afford the Internet, so they come to us for help. They come to our libraries to apply for employment and do other things on the Internet,” she said.
Conaway also said, “We understand that at this time the governor needs to have a choice in what to cut, but we don’t think it’s wise to cut something that people stand for.”
Gail Parsons-Doughty, assistant director for human resources and finance at the Traverse Area District Library, said libraries are losing revenue from other sources as well.
Her library’s budget won’t be affected too much by Snyder’s plan.
“We will have $36,000 from state aid and we have a $4.7 million budget, so it is a small percent of our budget,” Parsons-Doughty said.
Josie Parker, director of Ann Arbor District Library, said she is grateful that “Snyder’s proposed budget includes some money for libraries,” which shows that he understands their importance for Michigan residents.
“However,” Parker said, “the statewide resources cannot function with this level of funding. State aid for Michigan libraries has been cut for years, even when the budget was healthy.
“The money being provided for maintaining state resources is not sufficient,” she said.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.