April 9, 2015; Library Journal
In a story that was monitored closely by library advocates and educators throughout Missouri, earlier this month, Governor Jay Nixon announced that he would restore almost $6 million in FY15 statewide library funding that he had withheld as a result of revenue shortfalls. According to Library Journal, $2.78 million will go toward general funding for local libraries and $3.1 million will be set aside for general Internet support known as REAL (an acronym for Remote Electronic Access for Libraries) that includes service, training, and technical support.
The suspension of funding led to a statewide advocacy effort that included online petitions, a social media campaign and even a trip by about 100 teenagers to Jefferson City to meet with the governor. Commenting on the lack of response the leaders of the effort felt they were getting from the governor and his staff during all stages of the campaign, however, Steven V. Potter, director of the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, MO, the state’s largest library, told Library Journal, “They won’t return calls. Won’t accept calls.” As such, the governor’s unexpected decision to restore funding has left library leaders, including Potter, with a sense of surprise and relief.
Missouri’s FY16 budget is still in negotiation, but the governor’s request includes no allocation for library Internet services and an elimination of the $2.78 million in state library aid. With little time to celebrate the recent victory from the current budget fight, library advocates are keeping their campaign active as they look ahead to secure funding for the next fiscal year.—Anne Eigeman