Thursday, June 3, 2010

Open letter to Secretary of State Jesse White

June 3, 2010

Jesse White, Secretary of State/State Librarian
213 State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62756

Dear Secretary White:

I am writing to express my concern and outrage at the State’s failure to fund the operations of the Illinois Library Systems. I know that the Systems are generally invisible to the average resident and, thus easy to ignore during the State’s funding crisis, but the services they provide are critical to enable local libraries to do our work.

System’s consulting and continuing education services have been valuable in helping the staff of local libraries develop their skills and share ideas for improving library service. Cooperative buying projects organized by the Systems save local libraries and their taxpayers a lot of money each year. System delivery services and automation systems, such as the Metropolitan Library System’s SWAN consortium, have allowed Illinois public libraries to lead the nation in the resource sharing that gives patrons of one library access to the collections of all the libraries in the Illinois. SWAN provides the patron’s of over 70 libraries with easy access to the collections of all the member libraries. They can request materials online and have them delivered to their home library within a few days. Most other library systems host similar consortiums. Many System services have already been lost, and the remaining services are in jeopardy. All this at a time when library use by the citizens of Illinois is at an all time high.

This terrible situation has occurred because the State has refused to release the funds that were allocated to Library Systems in the FY2010 budget. When the State budget was adopted last summer, System funding was cut 15% over the previous years. Systems immediately made budget cuts to deal with the reduced funding. But even though the fiscal year ends at the end of June 2010 only 57% of the money that was actually budgeted for the year has been disbursed. Most of the library systems in Illinois are in the process of suspending most services and are struggling to maintain even the essential delivery service. Some systems are even dropping delivery service because they are completely out of funds.

I implore you to release the funds that were budgeted for the library systems for the year that is ending as soon as possible. As cuts are made in the FY2011 budget, please maintain a reasonable level of funding for Library Systems so that at least the essential service that directly impact the patrons of our libraries can be maintained.


Christopher F. Bowen
Library Director
Downers Grove Public Library

Cc: Governor Quinn