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To the Editor:
In June, Governor Jay Nixon made the decision to withhold all state funding public libraries receive: State Aid and REAL (Remote Electronic Access for Libraries) appropriations. The statewide impact of these two withholds is $6.6 million.
This will mean fewer books, fewer databases and resources, plus less programming for citizens across the state. The smaller the library, the bigger the financial impact it is facing. Of the nearly 150 public libraries in our state, seven are considered large, approximately 25 are medium size and nearly 120 are small libraries. Make no mistake, these withholds will affect all libraries adversely, but it is the smaller libraries like ours whose budgets are affected the most by this decision.
Unless it is reversed, Ray County Library will have to absorb a $13,500 reduction in state aid and a $7,500 increase in Internet access expenditures, which combined translates into 5.65 percent of our budget. This decision has catastrophic consequences for small libraries in Missouri.
Our library provides public Internet access to information, both wired and wireless, as well as a good collection of printed and electronic materials. Ray County residents of every age are invited and welcomed every day to come through our doors and access the Internet or check out books, movies and magazines we provide.
From youngsters who come to check out their first book, to adults needing to apply for a job, to the seniors who appreciate the books we deliver to them because they are homebound, all are encouraged to utilize our resources.
Public libraries are essential to ensuring necessary access to educational, entrepreneurial and employment resources. When was the last time a job seeker looked for or applied for a job without accessing the Internet? State and federal agencies increasingly require individuals to go online for critical services and resources such as job applications, tax forms and Social Security.
To meet the growing community demand, Ray County Library must be able to provide reliable, high-quality Internet access. Broadband technology is a key driver of economic growth in rural areas, since it increases productivity, helps businesses thrive and drives innovation.
We are asking the governor to restore public library funding to the residents of Missouri, and we hope you will join with us in that effort. The governor’s office contact information is available at https://governor.mo.gov/get-involved/contact-the-governors-office, or you can write him at Office of Governor Jay Nixon, P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or call (573) 751-3222. Thank you for your support of the Ray County Library.
– Ray County Library Board of Trustees, Dona Phillips, president; Janet Aldrich, vice-president; Suanne Littleton, secretary/treasurer, and Monica Shane, Jon Kroupa, trustees, and Steve Meyer, director