The state budget approved last month by Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal eliminates funding that usually goes to the state's public libraries. The budget cuts $896,000 that the facilities typically earmark for Internet access, buying new books, and other services.
“In tight budget times, we prioritized funding for health care and education,” commissioner of administration Paul Rainwater, who is also the governor’s chief budget aide, said in a statement. “Operations such as local libraries can be supported with local, not state dollars.”
Michael DiResto, the spokesman for the Louisiana Division of Administration, told the Library Journal that the new budget includes two federal grants for technology that would allow the state library to purchase e-books, which local libraries can also utilize, and funds for local libraries to host technology training and buy necessary equipment.
However, the Library Journal pointed out that the second grant can provide technology training, but is otherwise specifically for providing laptops for patrons to check out and for the upkeep of technology workstations for blind patrons. Libraries would not be allowed to use the grant for desktop computers inside the library, an area previously covered by state funding.
Director of the Audubon Regional Library Mary Bennett Lindsay told the Library Journal that state aid made up 10 percent of the library’s budget.
“I’m just going to pray,” she said. “We’ll just have to cut back on books and hope we get through. If our server goes down or the switches go down, it’s going to have to come from somewhere. It’s not going to come from utilities. We’re barely paying people above minimum wage, so it’s not going to come out of salary. We may have to cut hours.”
Libraries located in more farflung areas will struggle more with the lack of funding because Louisana libraries in more populated areas are better supported by property taxes. Co-director of the East Baton Rouge Parish library system Patricia Husband said her system would be able to get by without the state money.
“It’s not a major source of income,” she told The Advocate. “It’s not going to interrupt our services.”