Jack Evans Report: Keep Our Libraries Open
I wrote in the last issue about the Mayor’s budget proposal, which I am largely pleased with subject to certain exceptions, such as the lack of sufficient funding for the arts. Today, though, I want to focus on one of the items I strongly support in the Mayor’s proposal, which is increased funding for our libraries.
As I mentioned before, I have been advocating for quite a while that our libraries be kept open longer. I introduced a bill to mandate that libraries be open seven days a week, and for longer hours. The District has spent millions of dollars renovating our libraries, and it is a shame that our now award-winning libraries have been closed on Sundays for years. Evidence has shown that after our libraries are renovated, circulation demand increases 30% - we’ve certainly seen that in Georgetown - all the more reason to expand our hours. Sundays are great opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy our libraries, as well as for students to finish last minute homework assignments. The libraries also house public meeting rooms, which are a great resource for nonprofit and community groups. Job-seekers regularly use the computers in our libraries.
Now, down to the details. I was so pleased that the Mayor included allocations in his budget proposal to largely fund my legislation. While I had asked for $10.5 million to fully fund the hours I proposed, the budget includes $8 million toward new hours and an additional $2 million for new books. On paper, this looks like a substantial increase in the library’s budget, from $42 million in fiscal year to $52.1 million in 2013. In some agencies, I would be concerned about this volume of an increase, but the library system is one of our best working D.C. agencies. The public library system has a track record of being consistently on budget, and library management staff have assured me that they will have the time needed to hire the additional staffing required in order to meet the deadline of October 1, the day fiscal year 2014 begins.
Now it is up to the D.C. Council to keep this money in the library budget rather than divert it for other uses. I hope you will support me in this goal. The Council will be making its own recommendations regarding the budget in coming weeks, so please share your views with me and with my colleagues.