Libraries in Texas face federal funding cuts

* Correction attached

Thanks to a $ 28,000 grant from the federal government, seniors in small town Portland, Texas can enjoy classes on the Internet, email, and others in classes their local library offers in the magazines, senior center, and Dairy Queen Learn technologies. But their classes may be over soon.

“We trained about 3,000 people in the community and received funding for three years in a row,” said RoseAleta Laurell, the library director. “Unfortunately, this will be our final year of funding.”

The federal government threatens to cut about 70 percent of its annual funding for public libraries in Texas because the state has failed to take on its own weight in library funding. As a result, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission had to cut competitive grant funds that gave more than $ 1.5 million to programs like the Portland Library’s Seniors in Cyberspace in 2014.

The state cuts came after state lawmakers made an unprecedented 64 percent budget cut in 2011 in the 2012-13 state library budget. The library and archive commission wants to appeal against the federal decision.

Public libraries receive both state and federal funding, and many Texas libraries supplement this income with local taxpayers’ money, charitable gifts, and corporate sponsorship. Federal funds are awarded by the Institute for Museums and Libraries through its contributions to the Library Services and Technology Act, which are intended to supplement state funding. Texas libraries currently receive an average of $ 10 million per fiscal year in LSTA grants, but state cuts would reduce that amount to $ 3 million annually as of 2014, according to Mark Smith, director of the Library and Archives Commission.

“It would mean cutting back on several programs,” including the competitive grant program, Smith said.

In a September 30 letter to the Library and Archives Commission, Maura Marx, assistant director of the Federal Office of Library Services, said the cuts were made because Texas had failed to fund its own libraries. States are required to demonstrate a “sustained effort” by public libraries, wrote Marx, to ensure that federal funding “complements rather than replaces state funding.”

The federal agency found that Texan lawmakers cut funding for libraries more drastically in 2011 than for other government services, in violation of federal funding requirements.

Smith said the state cut would jeopardize statewide library services like interlibrary loan and the competitive grant program. “The money gives libraries a chance to experiment and develop some innovative programs,” he said.

Another program at risk is the Read program or not read at Singletary Memorial Library in Rusk, which offers ESL courses for Spanish speakers. “So that parents can communicate with the public school system their children are enrolled in because many of them cannot communicate at all,” said Amy Derrington, director of the library. The program received a grant of $ 3,000 for 2014.

The 2011 state legislature cuts to Texas libraries were in response to tough budget projections. Texas calculator Susan Combs It is estimated that the state would face a budget deficit of up to $ 27 billion, so lawmakers cut spending. Education and libraries have suffered some of the deepest cuts.

Smith said the Library and Archives Commission suffered disproportionate funding cuts in 2011, in violation of the federal funding requirement. But he said lawmakers restored 85 percent of that funding this year, and he hopes the federal agency will positively evaluate the Texas appeal.

Texas librarians continue to hold their breath while federal agency reviews the state’s appeal.

“Without the help of the competitive grants available to them, we are very limited in what we can offer,” said Derrington. “Libraries everywhere have a tight budget.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Federal cuts would reduce the funding of LSTA grants for Texas libraries to $ 3 million annually starting in 2015.

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Virginia C. Taylor

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