Public libraries are an asset to communities

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Public libraries are an invaluable asset to local communities. From books, documentaries, audio books and computers with Internet access, these institutions provide various sources of information at little or no cost to the community. However, despite being a public institution, libraries often have to seek funding from outside sources.

It was recently reported that the Pearl River County Library System grant writing committee might soon be applying for two grants. The first grant would be the Library Services and Technology Act grant, which is a federal grant providing up to $3,000. The second would be the Walmart community grant, which would provide up to $5,000.

If awarded, these funds would be used to implement new literacy programs and conduct much needed upgrades to the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library, to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and make the Kirkwood Street entrance handicap accessible. Library staff also want to install AWE Learning Early Literacy Stations at the Picayune and Poplarville locations, previous coverage states.

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So, the question arises, if public libraries are public institutions, why are they consistently without adequate funding to implement necessary changes, or even buy new books? According to an article by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, between 1995 and 2014, the federal government provided one percent or less of public library revenue. The majority of library funding came from local governments (86 percent in 2014.) As more responsibility was allocated to local governments, funding from state governments and other outside sources, such as donations and grants, began to drop – leading to a decrease in overall expenditures, the article states.

The article states that Mississippi had the lowest library per capita expenditure of any state in the nation in 2014.

If libraries are to continue providing services to the citizens, the state and federal governments will need to start allocating more funding to the library system.