Budget Cuts Hit State Libraries

Public libraries aren't the only ones being targeted by budget cuts. State libraries, which serve as resources to legislatures and executives, are also just as vulnerable.

In August, I wrote about the budget pressures that public libraries face, despite the increased demand for services (see "Beyond the Stacks," August 2010, Governing). The column generated a lot of responses, not only about the effect of cutbacks, but about the future role of the public library itself.

But the column also caught the attention of other librarians who pointed out the plight of another tax-supported library system: state libraries. Less known than public libraries, but of great importance in their own right, state libraries have been serving the needs of state government professionals (as well as the public) for decades. They often provide research services for legislatures and the executive branches of state government, as well as give technical support to public libraries. They also house important documents of historical significance.

On August 23, I received a note from Paul Elliot Dahl, director of the Barr Library, which serves the Minnesota Department of Health. He told me that the library is closing in October due to budget cutbacks. The Barr Library has been in existence since 1937 and has helped the agency it serves become "one of the premier public health departments in the country," according to Dahl.

A quick check finds planned or proposed budget cuts at state libraries in Pennsylvania, Washington and South Carolina, with cuts already made in Michigan, California and Louisiana. I’m sure there are more.

Let us know what’s happening with your state library and what, if anything, is being done to keep them operating.

Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.