Jobs may be in jeopardy at some libraries in Delaware.
Libraries across the state are bracing to get hit with a double whammy of budget cuts on the state and federal levels.
Dover Public Library director Margie Cyr said it's “utterly frightening” because state funding for her library covers 100 percent of all programs, plus “78 percent of the cost of all of the books that we buy.”
Annie Norman, director of Delaware Division of Libraries, said the proposed budget cuts could affect staffing at some libraries.
“It's going to be really painful,” Norman said. “Everyone was already having to cut back during the recession, and now we're facing it again. We haven't caught our breath.”
It's an 'injustice'
Dover Public Library's director said cuts in state money would force her to reduce programming and the number of new books, video games and movies she’d be able to offer.
Dover resident Stephanie Bradley said the fact that Gov. John Carney and President Donald Trump are proposing to make cuts to libraries explains where their priorities are.
“It tells me they have no kids or grandkids that appreciate the knowledge that's in the library,” the grandmother said. “It'd be an injustice.”
Her grandson, 12-year-old Jayden Bradley, isn't thrilled about the idea of Dover Public Library having to decrease the number of new books it could buy.
“Everybody can't afford books, and they always have good books here,” said the 12-year-old grandson, who was recently perusing the library in search of the popular novel “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
Dover resident Patrick Jones said he takes his daughters, Ingrid, 2, and Moira, 4, to the library about once a week.
Jones said he hadn’t heard about the proposed budget cuts.
“I don't like the idea of it,” he said. “Libraries are a great resource for the public, so [it's not good] if you diminish the resources that are supposed to be available.”
Cyr said libraries need as much support as they can get, considering the value they bring to the community.
“It's the first place children come for learning,” Cyr said. “Also, it's the first place many come for socialization when they're really young.
“Libraries are the places where people learn to think. We provide the access to resources so that they can develop their minds and think reasonably. And you can't have a population that doesn't have the ability to think reasonably.”
President Trump's budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 calls for eliminating funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
That money is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries. IMLS received $230 million in FY2016, according to IMLS.gov.
Norman said the Delaware Division of Libraries received about $1 million in federal funding in FY2016.
Division of Libraries federal dollars are used for statewide initiatives, such as programs like Inspiration Space, which helps job seekers. It also funds the Delaware Library Access Services.
DLAS is a program for people with disabilities that since 1972 has provided books in braille and audio books for the blind and physically handicapped.
Carney's budget proposal includes a $460,800 reduction to Library Standards – state aid for libraries – and Delaware Art.
‘Taken for granted’
At Dover Public Library, Cyr said she relies on state money to pay for “100 percent of all of the technology in our building, including all of the equipment, all of the wireless, all of the printing – everything.”
Norman said the Division of Libraries received an estimated $4.2 million in state money in FY2016 to share among its 33 public libraries.
She said each library handles those state funds a little differently, with some using it for their staff, while others pay for staffing using a different pot of money.
Generally, Norman said, libraries use state funds similarly to the Dover Public Library.
Dover Public Library's director said she uses state funding for many purposes, such as paying for 100 percent of its DVD and video game collection; 100 percent of the training for its staff; 95 percent of office supplies; and 20 percent of the cost of the magazines it offers.
Cyr said Dover Public Library receives three sources of money: $1,333,500 from City of Dover funding in FY2016; $297,027 in state aid in FY2016; and $312,6000 in Kent County reciprocal money in FY2016.
“Libraries are about community. We serve everyone,” Cyr said. “It's hard for the general public to realize what the actual level of the service is that the libraries provide for them, because I think it's something that's very taken for granted.”
With statewide budget cuts on the horizon, the director of DDL said that would make things harder for the 588 public library staffers. More than half are full-time.
At the moment, Norman said, staffing is “kind of barebones.”
“There’s almost half a million Delawareans who have library cards. And even more than that are coming to use the services,” Norman said. “We get about 4 million statewide visits a year. Libraries are struggling with the small staff that they have.”