I will start by saying that the Downers Grove Public Library is in pretty good shape. Like most public libraries in Illinois, we are funded by property tax, a relatively stable revenue source. We did not experience the sudden dramatic loss of sales tax that resulted in massive cuts in most village and city budgets. (As has been the fate of a few a few libraries that reduced or eliminated their property tax levies in exchange for a share of their municipalities’ sales tax.) However, the State-funded network of multi-type library systems that provides the behind-the-scenes support for much that local public libraries do is hurting, and hurting bad!
According to the Illinois Library Systems Act, “Illinois multi-type Library Systems provide service in the following areas: Automation/Technology, Bibliographic Access, Consulting, Continuing Education, Delivery, Interlibrary Loan, Reciprocal Access, and Reference Services.”
What does this mean to your local public library? Downers Grove belongs to the Metropolitan Library System. MLS hosts the SWAN consortium – the on-line catalog that gives patrons access to the collections of 80 libraries. MLS provides the delivery service that moves over 3 million items between libraries each year. (MLS delivery interconnects with the other 8 Illinois library systems to move materials between libraries across the whole state.) All Systems provide member libraries with consulting, continuing education programs, and networking opportunities that help local library staff improve skills and share ideas in order to provide better service to their patrons.
Illinois Library Systems are funded by an annual grant appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly and distributed through the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. Systems have not had an increase in funding for about 20 years. The State budget adopted last August, included a 16% cut in funding for Systems. That cut hurt, but worse is that Library Systems have received only 58% of the funding that was approved in the State Budget. It is one thing to have to deal with a 16% budget cut, but it is much harder when the remaining funds that were allotted are never provided.
What is happening to the Library Systems? The leadership of our system (MLS) saw the writing on the wall and began cutting staff and services almost a year ago. Yesterday our neighboring North Suburban Library System announced cuts that will go into effect on May 30. NSLS hopes to retain its delivery service. “But most other services and programs will be dramatically reduced, eliminated, or spun off.”
Today I learned that Voices of Vision Talking Book Center soon may have to cease operations. VoV is one of 4 regional centers that provide talking books and Braille materials for the visually impaired. VOV serves residents of 12 counties, including DuPage. It has been hosted by the DuPage Library System (DLS) through a contract with the Illinois State Library (also funded by the Secretary of State). VOV has only received 3% of the funds allocated this fiscal year. It has only lasted this long because DLS used its own reserve funds to support the service. DLS reserves are running out and the System can no longer afford to support Voices of Vision.
Library Systems are not asking for more funding. They are not even protesting the 16% cut. If you want to help, urge your State legislator to work to release the System funding that was budgeted for this year and to continue the current level of System funding in the new budget year.