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Strong Libraries are Key to Improving State's Economy

Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill threatens future of public libraries in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s public, school, academic, and special libraries improve the state’s economy and the quality of life for residents of our state.

Libraries have always been a source of community pride, and they are especially valuable in today’s knowledge and information-based world. Strong Wisconsin libraries support a stronger Wisconsin economy.

Our state is struggling with high unemployment and shrinking paychecks. This difficult economy requires smart investments and careful spending. Wisconsin libraries are models of frugality, using technology and working cooperatively to reduce costs and share resources.

In fact, Wisconsin is first in the nation in per capita interlibrary loan, which saves taxpayers an estimated $100 million annually by sharing resources rather than purchasing more copies of library materials.

The cuts proposed in the 2011-13 state budget strike at the heart of library efficiencies. Elimination of the requirement that communities continue to support their local libraries will threaten Wisconsin’s resource-sharing services, creating a system of haves and have-nots.

Libraries are one of the best investments a community can make. Libraries help families cope with tight budgets by providing Internet-connected computers, books and other materials, and professional assistance at no cost to the user.

Libraries support a competitive workforce through literacy programs, partnerships with job training programs, and other resources that help children and adults learn to find, evaluate, and use information they need for their education, health, and careers.

Studies show that good school libraries effectively improve student performance. And research has shown that libraries return more than $4 to the economy for each tax dollar invested.

In recognition of the importance of libraries to our economy and the services they provide to their communities, the American Library Association and libraries across the nation are sponsoring National Library Week, April 10 to 16. No matter your interest or need, libraries and library staff members are there to help.

In honor of National Library Week, I encourage everyone to visit their local library to take advantage of the wonderful resources that are available, and to thank their librarians and library staff for making information and education accessible to all.

Tony Evers is the Wisconsin superintendent of schools.

CowDung April 11, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Then perhaps it would make sense to cut funding from the 'affluent area' libraries, and continue funding for the libraries in less affluent areas. Let the rich people by their own books and internet service, and keep those services available for those that truly need them.
Bob McBride April 11, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Jim, I thought the same thing myself. If the issue du jour was exploding landfills, we'd be reading an article entitled "Libraries Decrease Potential Landfill Explosions by Storing Old Books in a Non-flamable Environment". I'm sure Mr Evers was struggling for a way to make libraries seem like a good tax investment, despite their declining usage and current status as the source of last, instead of first, resort for reference and reading materials. Not that I don't like libraries. I'd prefer they were treated more like the Latin Mass, though. Ban the usage of laptops and other technological marvels and let those of us to who revel in the nostalgic timewaster that is the Dewey Decimal System enjoy our blast from the past in quiet solitude.
Jennie Stoltz April 12, 2011 at 05:21 AM
Actually, public library use during a recession increases dramatically. We are neither experiencing declining usage nor are we the last source people go to for reference/reading materials. For years many said that the Internet was going to put public libraries out of business. It has done the opposite - people are flocking to libraries for one-on-one assistance, computer workshops, and to use the free Internet/wireless access - especially seniors who feel more comfortable in a library than a classroom. Even in wealthier communities people still find their way into the library to use/checkout the computers, books, audiobooks, DVDs, music CDs, magazines, newspapers, online databases, Children's programs, Programs for Teens, Programs for Seniors, Educational workshops, meeting rooms, study rooms, or they just go to the library because it is quite often the social center of their community. People also have been saying that eBooks are going to put libraries out of business but the demand for eBooks at public libraries has been so high we can't begin to keep up with it, especially with budgets being slashed. The Department of Public Instruction published a report a few years ago on the return on investment of Public Libraries in Wisconsin and the result is that for every $1 spent it brings an ROI of $4. http://dpi.wi.gov/pld/econimpact.html So in the future, it might be wise to get the facts about your library @ your local library.
Bob McBride April 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Jennie, Those are the "facts" I'd expect to get at the library and from the DPI, regardless of whether they're accurate or not. I'm very aware that the DPI does have a very strong promotional arm that offers support to libraries, particularly those in some of the smaller outlying communities, where residents are reluctant approve referendums to expand library facilities because they tend to duplicate not only what they have at home (computers) but what's available in schools (actual libraries) and other facilities (churches, recreational centers for meeting spaces). Just as with the schools systems, they create this unfounded fear that if we don't invest in the latest and greatest or preserve what has become a redundancy, our property values will decline. This is what happens in the public sector when you have entities that can't possibly be self-supporting based on the relative value of the services they provide and have to imply doom and gloom were they to fade away into obscurity (as they probably should, except for the romantic notions many hold for them, including myself). This also explains Mr Evers "opinion" piece here. Latch onto the burning issue of the day and try make a connection, regardless of how tenuous.
Linda Pierschalla April 12, 2011 at 02:26 PM
I have met Mr. Evers and I can tell you anyone who truly understands the value of education and free access to information, as he does, would not need to "struggle for a way to make libraries seem like a good tax investment". Libraries are so much more than a blast from the past and all are welcome to services regardless of financial means. Summer reading programs for youth, informative programs, computer classes, internet access, and not to mention access to millions of materials through out the state due to the outstanding shared resource system that has been in place since the 1970s. Stop in the library, you will get far more for your tax investment than you ever imagined.

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