As everyone knows, public library use in the United States is growing. Circulation and visits to U.S. libraries are increasing and a wide range of services, such as literacy classes, teen programs and public access computing, are also experiencing strong demand.
But the public funding required to sustain the variety, use and appetite for library services is not keeping pace with demand. For many public libraries, particularly those in smaller rural communities, funding is a growing concern.
Federal and state funding for public libraries has flattened or declined, and the ability to raise funds from local sources, which represent 81% of all library funding, has also become more difficult.
Library levies and referenda are being placed on election ballots less frequently in recent years and passage rates of the library levies that make it to the ballot have steadily declined over the past decade.
As a result, for many U.S. libraries, operating expense increases are now outstripping funding.
Without some action, this funding problem will not self-correct and is likely to worsen. Public library budgets face significant economic strains with increased energy and healthcare costs and declining property values, leading to a reduction in local property taxes, the source of most local library funding. The cost of employee benefits increased 65% between 2000 and 2011, and is set to increase a lot more beginning in January. This has resulted in a 12% reduction in spending on collections and programs.
In Waukee, I am proud to say that due to wise fiscal management on the part of the city administrators, the operating budget of the library has not decreased once since my arrival. We enjoy good leadership at the municipal level and that has resulted in a well-funded library.
So, thank you City of Waukee!