Friday, July 9, 2010

Library Advocacy Engine Check

(in billions and millions)

Link to July 9 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo (from which the above table is reproduced).

As reported by the Wheeler Report today, A memo distributed to all legislators today by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau details a potential $2.5 billion structural deficit for the next Legislature. The deficit memo is based on current fiscal parameters and does not include any revenue growth or potential program expansions. Revenue growth would reduce the deficit, while expansions would increase it.

The good news -- and believe me, it's a HUGE s---t---r---e---t---c---h to make this analogy -- is we've been in this deep red territory before.  The bad news ---well, let's just say it's self-evident.  The economy's not partyin' like it's 2003; it seems to be suffering from a world-class hangover.  In fact, the last I checked, it couldn't even lift its head off the pillow.

It's not a pretty picture.

Most of the federal stimulus funds have been spent.

The recession continues to batter state budgets.

Localities struggle to balance their books.

OK, now that I have this gloomy assessment out of the way, I'd like to ask all the library directors and trustees in Wisconsin (and beyond) a series of questions:

How are the mechanicals of your library advocacy program?  

Is your engine well-oiled and responsive?  (You don't want to be sputtering when you need to accelerate.)

How fast can you go from 0 to 60 (advocacy messages to elected officials and other key leaders)?

Are you ready to rumble?  (Whoa, wait a minute, how did that one get on the list?!  Instead of a rumble, you might want to involve yourself in any of the "Ten Easy-to-Do Campaign Activities" as enumerated by WLA Lobbyist Tony Driessen.)

The bottom-line question is:  What are you going to do to prevent your library from being represented on this map?  Building a common agenda with your officials is critical.  Let's redouble our efforts now so we don't have to mount a "Save Wisconsin's Libraries" campaign later.

The abobe map represents a disheartening series of losses for libraries -- reductions in staff, cuts in hours, shrinking materials budgets -- that in every case, I'd venture to say, were tempered by the vocal support of the people who love and value libraries.

Take the time to tune up your engine now.

Otherwise, as Marilyn Johnson frames her theme in a July 6 Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, "We lose [our libraries] at our peril".

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