“I believe that the public library is the heart of my community. It enriches my life and inspires my future. For these reasons, I support the funding of public libraries with my tax dollars.”
You’ll be seeing those words a lot when you visit your local library, because Spring has sprung, though you’d never know it by our weather, and the coming of Spring marks another Library Legislative Day. This March 26th, people will descend upon Raleigh and attempt to meet with their representatives to show their support for libraries and library funding. Those of us that aren’t able to make the rather long trek to the capital will send letters and email to our representatives, sign petitions, and perhaps remind Raleigh that yes, people do live west of Asheville.
Throughout this blog, I’ll be sharing fascinating facts and scintillating figures about Fontana Regional Library. Aren’t you excited? Much of what we do is under the radar, so some of this information may surprise you.
Currently, State Aid to libraries sits as $13.1 million to be spread amongst all the public libraries in North Carolina. That breaks down to roughly $1.30 per person, far less than the $2.55 libraries received per person in 2000. Our original plan was to remind our legislators that we are continually doing more with less and to request a modest increase to State Aid funding. And then Governor McCrory’s proposed budget came out.
He is proposing a 4.8% CUT to library funding.
Because of this new development, we’re changing track. We are asking you, our patrons, our supporters, our family, to contact your local and state officials and let them know that you support tax dollars funding public libraries. Their contact info can be found here for Macon, here for Jackson, and here for Swain.
Here in the mountains, and in rural communities across NC, public libraries are some of the only places that provide free high speed internet and free access to computers. Our digital access and computer services are core to our mission. According to our recently completed computer usage survey, our patrons feel the same. You can view the full results here.
Now here come the numbers. Are you ready? Good, let’s do this.
Total population of Macon, Jackson, and Swain counties according to the 2010 Census: 88,174
Total circulation of Fontana Regional Library (FRL) items last fiscal year: 420,375. If residents had to pay for these materials individually it would cost over $7.2 million.
Total number of people attending FREE FRL programs last fiscal year: 52,767. If the library had charged going rate for entertainment residents would have paid $600,400.
Total number of FRL computer usage last fiscal year: 92,351
Total number of FRL wi-fi usage last fiscal year: 44,641.
The cost of computers, accessories, software, internet, and maintenance would be pretty close to astronomical if residents had to pay retail prices for this service. This is how libraries are bridging the digital divide.
The library also provides things that are hard to turn into statistics. How do you quantify the joy a child experiences when letting their creative juices flow? Or the excitement of a person rediscovering an author they haven’t read in ages? The palpable relief that a teen feels when they find just the right book for the paper that’s due next week? The only thing we have for those stories is you.
It’s your personal stories that make the library real to our representatives. With your stories and our statistics, we may be able to remind the powers that be that libraries are crucial to our state and to our lives.
Please take a moment to contact your representatives and let them know how much you love your library and that you support funding us. We can’t do it without you! Contact info for Macon, contact info for Jackson, contact info for Swain.