Parish libraries lose state fundingPublished 12:05am Wednesday, July 4, 2012
VIDALIA — It may have been because library employees are used to staying quiet that Concordia Parish Libraries won’t be receiving state aid this year.
But Director Amanda Taylor said not even the loudest “shhh” will silence the libraries’ efforts to receive the nearly $12,000 in state funds next year.
Because of budget concerns, the $25-billion Louisiana budget signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 15 excludes almost $1 million in state funding to libraries across the state.
Previously when those funds were allocated to state libraries, they had to be used for educational resources like books, computers or other equipment.
Operational costs and 93 percent of the Concordia Parish Libraries funding comes from a 10-year, 8.5-mill library tax that was renewed by the voters in 2008.
While the library services will take a hit, Taylor said they are grateful to have the tax to allow the libraries to continue functioning.
“We knew that certain areas were going to take a reduction, and we were geared for that, but we didn’t expect (libraries) to be zeroed out completely,” Taylor said. “We’ll be able to move money around in our budget to keep most services going, but we won’t have money to replace computers or purchase new software.”
The Concordia Parish Library operates four branches in Clayton, Ferriday, Vidalia and a bookmobile that travels throughout the parish.
Taylor said the extra state funds allowed the libraries to bring its patrons technological resources that aren’t available in every house in rural parishes like Concordia.
“Not everyone has the money to have a $2,500 computer and $50 Internet connection in their house, so they come to the library for those services,” Taylor said. “The public uses these computers constantly to where sometimes we’ll have people waiting in line just to use the computers.”
Across the four branches, the libraries have a total of 52 computers that cardholders can use for two hours at a time.
But even after hearing the news of the cuts, Taylor said she and her staff acted quickly to talk to state legislators and begin searching for funding elsewhere.
“Maybe we were too quiet and too reserved for (legislators) to hear us while all this was going on, but we’re not going to give up,” Taylor said. “We’ve started searching through literacy grants and other programs to help us continue expanding our services.
“And we’ve invited our legislators to come to our board meetings and tell us what our next step should be.”
For Rep. Andy Anders, D-Vidalia, and Sen. Neil Riser, R-Colombia, those steps are continuing to stress the importance of library funding and its benefits in Concordia Parish.
‘There are a lot of people I’ve heard from now, who benefit from these services, that will certainly feel the brunt and they will make their voices known and heard,” Anders said. “It’s like anything else — once you realize a service is not there, you’ll miss it even more.
“What we can do next year is talk about what we lost, regroup and figure out a way to make it work.”
But with the country still in tough economic times, Riser said getting funding for any projects will be difficult.
“We’re still in a difficult economic period, but the first chance we get we’re going to reappropriate that money,” Riser said. “Andy and I were both disappointed that the funding was cut.
“We always want to encourage reading, writing, arithmetic and learning overall, but that becomes more difficult without funding like this.”