With the release of Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal on Monday I have had a number of questions about the impact on PVLD and on public libraries in California.
The budget proposal eliminates, with some very minor exceptions, all General Fund funding for public libraries. The California State Library will continue to be funded at a reduced level in order to continue its mission of preserving California's history and cultural heritage, but with very limited exceptions State funding for local library services is eliminated.
Local public libraries may receive State Funds through several legislative channels, and each has a slightly different impact.
Public Library Foundation (PLF)
PLF provides a very small amount of per capita funding (in recent years it has been in the neighborhood of $0.30 per resident per year, down over 75% since its peak a decade or so ago) for library services to every local jurisdiction that meets a threshold level of local matching funding for its libraries.
PVLD receives approximately $25,000 in PLF funds. For us the loss of the funds will certainly have a meaningful impact, especially in the face of falling property tax revenues, but in the scope of a $6.5 million budget the impact is fairly small.
PLF is more meaningful for many City and County libraries because it represents a source of funding that must be spent on library services and cannot be redirected. In difficult budget times such as these a number of jurisdictions rely on entirely on PLF to fund their purchases of library materials. For these libraries the impact on the communities they serve will be significant.
California Library Services Act (CLSA)
CLSA was enacted many years ago to foster inter-library cooperation and resource sharing. The Act provides funds several important programs that benefit local communities.
Transaction-Based Reimbursement (TBR) reimburses public libraries for a small portion of the costs of providing services to non-residents from other California communities. TBR has two components - reimbursement of some of the costs of providing materials to patrons of other libraries via Inter-Library Loan and reimbursement for some of the costs of providing "over the counter" services to non-residents who make use of a library other than in the community where they live.
PVLD is expected to receive approximately $40,000 in TBR funds this fiscal year. As with PLF the loss of this funding will have a meaningful impact, but it is relatively small in the context of the overall budget.
Because of the way it is structured the loss of TBR will have a disproportionate impact on libraries whose collections make them more likely to be a "net lender" of Inter-Library Loan materials (for example the Los Angeles Public Library with its research collections) or whose locations give rise to more use by non-residents.
One of the risks with the elimination of the TBR funding is that local jurisdictions will be more reluctant to serve non-residents and we may see introduction of non-resident fees or simply denial of service to non-residents. While on the one hand this may seem like a good thing for residents of communities like Palos Verdes who enjoy top-level library services and may not want to share them, the downside is that it could also prevent the many PV community members who currently are able to use other libraries in the South Bay when convenient or who work downtown and make use of the central Los Angeles Public Library from doing so.
CSLA also provides funding for Cooperative Library Systems such as the Southern California Library Cooperative (SCLC) of which PVLD is a member. Under CSLA the cooperative library systems receive dedicated funding support the cost of providing communications and delivery systems that enable the sharing of resources through interlibrary loans and the rapid interchange of information by telephone, fax, U.S. Mail, courier services, and van deliveries. In recent fiscal years, over 1.7 million messages and nearly 8.6 million items have been delivered between California libraries with the support of this program.
PVLD patrons directly benefit from the SCLC delivery service when they order an item from another SCLC library and it is delivered to our library within a few days.
CLSA also provides funding for the cooperative library systems to provide what is known as "second level reference" to member libraries. PVLD patrons benefit because the SCLC reference center, housed at the Los Angeles Public Library, is a resource for PVLD librarians to respond to highly specialized reference questions; get access to the information in costly and specialized databases that would be unaffordable for us to access directly; and get access to special collections not accessible via traditional Inter-Library Loan such as the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of sheet music.
Apart from the delivery and reference services provided by the cooperative library systems, they provide an important mechanism for networking and collaboration between libraries. In the case of SCLC this includes supporting committees and interest groups to discuss topics of common interest (e.g. technology, children's services, etc.) providing training, and facilitating joint grant applications that benefit all member libraries (this year PVLD is benefitting from a system-wide grant that is funding a job-search online service for all member libraries).
The loss of CLSA funding puts the future of the cooperative library systems at risk, and the resulting loss of delivery and reference services, training, and opportunities for collaboration would have a direct impact on PVLD's services to our patrons.
California Library Literacy and English Acquisition Services Program
This program provides a miniscule amount of funding to support English-language literacy programs in public libraries. The name of the program is somewhat misleading as it seems to indicate that this is an English as a Second Language (ESL) program when in fact it is for developing English-language literacy skills and the primary beneficiaries are native English speakers who have been failed by the formal education system.
The actual literacy training is nearly always delivered by volunteers. Libraries who receive funds under this program typically use them to support a paid program administrator and/or for the purchase of materials such as workbooks.
PVLD does not receive funding under this program, but for those communities that struggle with educational achievement the programs supported by these funds are tremendously important.
In summary, public libraries across the State were braced for significant funding cuts. I don't think anyone expected that libraries would be exempt from the cuts that are being made across all categories of the State budget. That said, the total elimination of ALL State support for local library services is a shock.
In terms of direct budget impact on local jurisdictions, for many of us it is not huge....but the possible unintended consequences might be. If the end result is the dismantling of the systems that enable library jurisdictions to share resources and take advantage of economies of scale (such as through the inter-library delivery program) or allow residents of our communities to make use of libraries that are most convenient to their work or school then the loss will be far beyond the $30.4 million that is being cut from the budget.
We'll be watching the budget process closely and I'll use this blog for updates as appropriate