Oregon Legislators Bet on Gambling, Not Libraries

Article excerpt

Voting to give the horse-racing industry $4.8 million and libraries zero, Oregon legislators in July rejected a $15-million funding request from library supporters to keep hours and budgets intact as cuts imposed by two property-tax limitation laws take effect.

Craig Berkman, head of Oregonians for Libraries, a Portland-based library advocacy group, told American libraries the vote was "a real shock and disappointment to everybody." He said legislators from both parties "abandoned" libraries despite their lofty words about education and learning all season long. He commented that. their support of gambling "reflects the misplaced values of what is important to our society."

Berkman said the group considered the $15 million to be "bridge money" that would give libraries the chance to go back to their local governments to develop strategies to survive Measure 47, which passed in 1996, and Measure 50, which passed in May.

Measure 50, a rewrite of Measure 47, restores some money to local governments. But it hasn't been enough to prevent drastic cuts. In Multnomah County, libraries have reduced operating time to 38.5 hours per week, and Deschutes County library eliminated its book budget and cut evening hours at three branches. Salem Public Library cut its book budget by 25%, reduced hours at the main library by nearly 20%, and eliminated its bookmobile, while Lebanon Public Library cut its hours from 55 per week to 28. …