February 23, 2011

Texas librarians offer a taste of protests to come


This image is actually from an NYC campaign to save library funding but it seems quite appropriate for TX

According to this report by Michael Kelley in Library Journal, Texas librarians seem to have caught the democracy bug. Last Wednesday they showed up in Austin to protest their displeasure at the proposed cuts threatening to gut the Texas library system.

According to Pat Smith, the Texas Library Association (TLA) president, over 300 people showed up at the Texas capital to put pressure on lawmakers who are currently considering some of the deepest cuts ever considered. We detailed the cuts in an earlier report but they’re worth noting again just to show how drastic they are (I’m quoting directly from the LJ story here):

-Cut library development activities (Aid to Local Libraries) from $16.2 million to $119,000, particularly by completing eliminating the Loan Star Libraries program’s funding (which is $13.4 million in FY10/11) ;

eliminate nearly all state funding for TexShare, a multitype resource sharing consortium that provides access at a reduced price to online resources (primarily databases), from $9.5 million to $582,000. This also would eliminate the K-12 database program for Texas public schools and their libraries;

-Result in the loss of $8 million in federal LSTA money for failure to meet maintenance of effort requirements;

-Eliminate the state law library;

-Cut the state library’s biennial budget (from all sources) from $77.8 million in 2010/2011 to $48.4 million in 2012/13, a reduction of 37.7 percent.

Of course, Texas librarians realize how bad the state’s budget problems are and are willing to share some of the pain. Peggy Rudd, Texas State Library and Archives Commission director, has proposed her own series of cuts that would, in any other year, be considered draconian in their own right. Her proposal would cut the state’s contribution to Texas libraries a whopping 25%. And this represents a best-case scenario.

While all of this is incredibly depressing, Rudd told LJ that ”It was very rewarding to see that our constituents all across the state are taking this very, very seriously.”

Pat Smith was equally inspired when talking about how many young people came out to demonstrate: “I though it was wonderful because it shows that there is a whole future there for advocacy. There is new blood coming in to the process.”

Indeed, while this protest is small compared to the demonstrations by state workers currently occupying the state house in Madison, Wisconsin, it shows that there is a renewed sense of urgency about the consequences of these sorts of cuts. It also may serve as a dry run for an even bigger protest in April when librarians from all over Texas (and the rest of the country) will descend upon Austin for the annual TLA Conference April 12-15. To capitalize on this influx of librarians, demonstrations are set to be held at the capital on April 13.

Watch out, Rick Perry.