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Libraries: Will They Survive State Budget Cuts?


BRADENTON -- The state is now being faced with a larger deficit than anticipated and further cuts in programs are inevitable, so those who are recipients of state funds are scrambling to secure their place. Counties and regional organizations have spent the year prioritizing and putting some projects on hold, even laying-off employees to make ends meet. Many of these organizations feel they cannot survive without state funding, and many of the individuals who participate in what these organizations have to offer feel that their tax dollars are rightfully spent by the state when assisting these groups.

It's not easy picking and choosing between education, healthcare, utilities, civil rights, our environment and other essential services, yet the condition of the economy dictates they all cut a little further into the bone than they already have. Some programs that are still operative cannot afford to lose any more funding or they could require a major overhaul. One of those is our Manatee County Public Library.

City of Bradenton Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, approached the podium and was confronted by a request to sing her presentation, which the accomplished vocalist did. Her little melodious number seemed to loosen the broad base tension in the chambers, and her subject was about the challenges the future of the public library system faces. 

Since 2007, community activity for public services at the library have increased 7 to 10 percent per year and funding less than one. Barnebey said that more people are recognizing the broad range of services and entertainment the library provides. Besides the books, videos, instructional material, community information, government documents, newspapers and reference material it provides, there is also online computers that offer word processing, email and global connections. 

The library is the original town hall, the community center that is essential to being a community. Barnebey covered all of the bases, adding that the library has meeting rooms that provide services for special needs, copy machines, and that it also offers presentation equipment for special events.

"It's where people meet, to find jobs, to find about their Social Security and all of the other services,"  the veteran city councilwoman explained.

Barnebey said, "Every dollar that is spent for the library, gives $8.32 in services," and that makes it the biggest bang for your buck in government. She also spoke about the fragile nature of it's future. Governor Rick Scott is expected to add to the $615 million in budget cuts he made with the line-item-veto he presented in May. The libraries escaped budgetary cuts from that round, but may get hit on the second time around. 

This would be devastating to the complete library system. The federal block grant money they receive is only made available if state funds are kept at a certain level. Most of the funds to run the library come from local revenue, but since the economy has the traffic steadily increasing while the funds aren't, there will need to be budget adjustments, even if their current funds stays the same. 

Being a not-for-profit organization, any budgetary losses effect the libraries immediately. Legislatures need to know just how important libraries are to Manatee County citizens. 

Look for other articles in TBT regarding issues brought before the delegation. This coming Monday, we will be covering the Unidos Now organization, regarding Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  


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