Monday, April 18, 2011

Rhode Island's West Warwick Public Library, 'The Only Place Left to Go', Facing Deep Cuts to Budget

Budget troubles threaten ‘the only place left to go’./ (Providence Journal, 4/4/2011)

Excerpt: In a town gripped by recession, the public library has been one bright spot, a solace to some, an essential resource to many.

Patrons come in to read a book, check out a DVD or use one of the 50 computers. The Job Club, as much a support group for the unemployed as a resource to learn how to find work, has drawn widespread media attention.

Visitors come in from surrounding communities — Coventry, Warwick, East Greenwich. And they all have the same reaction when they enter for the first time, says library director Frances Farrell Bergeron.

“They say, ‘I never knew West Warwick had such a beautiful library,’ ” she recounts.

Now, in a bid to balance its budget, the town is proposing to slash the library’s funding by 32 percent, from $732,759 to $500,000. That’s bad enough for the library’s supporters. But it gets worse.

The cut would be compounded because the library would lose all of its state funding, too, about $171,000. That’s because state law requires that towns at least level-fund their libraries from one year to the next to qualify for state aid. If they fail to do so, they don’t get help from the state. The principle is known as maintenance of effort.

No city or town in Rhode Island has ever lost its state library funding, according to Howard Boksenbaum, the state’s chief library officer. West Warwick was threatened two years ago, but won a reprieve through special legislation in the General Assembly that allowed it to contribute most of what it had the previous year. Cumberland was also on the verge last year but restored funding

Related article:
Job Club @ the library.  (3/22/2011)

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