Magazine article Information Today

Funding Strategies for Libraries. (Internet Librarian 2003)

Magazine article Information Today

Funding Strategies for Libraries. (Internet Librarian 2003)

Article excerpt

Rebecca Jones of Dysart & Jones Associates moderated an evening session at Internet Librarian 2003 titled "Saving Ourselves: Alternative or Adventuresome Funding Strategies." It featured Steve Coffman of LSSI, Caroline Punches of the new academic/public King Library in San Jose, Calif., Jim Lewis of Lewis Kennedy Associates, and Stephen Slade of Elkhorn Slough Foundation.

Recognizing the financial difficulties that libraries are facing, this panel examined the current funding environment and explored potential out-of-the-ordinary funding sources that they might tap into. Generally, the members recommended that libraries investigate the funding models used by museums, zoos, science and nature centers, and public broadcasting.

Coffman set the stage by discussing the current situation as well as the historical context of library funding. His well-researched presentation delivered many facts and comprehensively covered a topic that he said librarians don't like or want to talk about. ALA statistics point out that virtually all libraries in the public sector are facing tough times as state and municipal funding bodies are cutting back. It has become nearly impossible to obtain additional funding from traditional sources, which in most cases means public funds available from taxes.

Coffman mentioned that 91 percent of public library funding comes from taxes. In addition, the percentage of public money that goes to libraries is minuscule. He said one study found that $80 per capita went to parks and recreation departments, while only $30 per capita went to libraries. Perhaps most important, this funding model does not grow in relationship to library achievements, which might mean that libraries are afraid of success.

Coffman then discussed the situation in Pittsburgh, where a museum and the public library occupy the same building. The museum has steadily decreased its dependence on public money and has instead explored a plural funding model in which revenue is obtained from many sources, including memberships, sales, contributions, and museum-sponsored travel.

The new King Library in San Jose has received considerable media attention, as it's the first combined academic and public library in a major metropolitan area. …

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