In Tough Economic Times: Making the Case for Libraries

Article excerpt

It's time to beat our plowshares into swords.

It's no secret. The tough economy is already having an impact on library budgets.

For those of us who have been through multiple recessions, the stories of budget cuts and branch closings are all too familiar. We know that libraries provide essential services, but we are also aware that libraries don't necessarily receive the recognition they deserve. All too often, the library is the first to be cut or is disproportionately cut, regarded as a "nonessential" service.

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What is also familiar is the increased usage that libraries are experiencing as users come for help in finding new jobs or skills, accessing information on government assistance programs, or simply because libraries are the best deal in town when it comes to stretching a shrinking dollar. All across the country, public libraries are reporting increases in usage of 10%, 20%, or even 30%.

However, some things are different this time. This time, the increase in library usage is being widely reported in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television. This time we also know a lot more about how to fight impending budget cuts.

We know that:

* We can no longer afford to be passive victims; we have to be outspoken advocates and encourage the public to advocate on behalf of libraries as well.

* If we do make the case for our libraries, we are much more likely to receive needed funding or avoid budget cuts.

* There are skills and resources that can help anyone become a more persuasive and effective library advocate.

We also have a secret weapon: the energy and enthusiasm of 67,000 ALA members and the millions of people that use and love libraries. So how are the Association and its members working to make the case?

Here are some of the ways:

* A new Office for Library: Advocacy (OLA) devoted to helping library supporters make the case locally. …