Local Librarians Save Programs That Make Library Resources Widely Available
April 14, 2011
Thank your local librarian — again — for standing up for free and easy access to books.
This time, librarians have figured out a way to save a couple of crucial programs while also complying with the governor's proposed budget cuts. One of the programs, "Connecticar," allows patrons to go to their local library and request a book from any other library in the state. It turns even the smallest local facility into a powerful regional library, helping out users who may not have access to a lot of materials locally.
The companion "Connecticard" program allows card-holders to check a book out of any public library in the state, which means you can go to the library in the town where you work, for example, to pick up a book or DVD on your lunch hour — and later return it to your hometown library.
Librarians have told state legislators they will find other cuts — about $1 million — so they can keep the popular programs running. In one of his less-than-brilliant budget cuts, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had proposed eliminating them.
Connecticard had nearly 300,000 users last year, borrowing nearly 5 million library items. Under Connecticar, a high school student, for example, could request research materials from another library and have them delivered to his hometown. The program makes 175 pickups and drop-offs every day.
For about $1 million, the two programs open up even the smallest public library to the resources of libraries throughout Connecticut.
"Everybody agrees it is still meeting a tremendous need,'' State Librarian Kendall Wiggin told me. "Connecticut benefits by being one of the few states where you can use your library card anywhere … We are able to really share all these materials very effectively."
Wiggin said librarians wanted to try to abide by the spirit of Malloy's cutbacks while still preserving vital services. He said leaders in the General Assembly have told him they will support restoring the programs since the state library is making other budget cuts to make up for the spending.
Some libraries, such as those in Manchester and Westport, say they serve many towns through the program.
The Westport Public Library is the top destination library in the state, said director Maxine Bleiweis, who told me about the threatened programs when I bumped into her at Gov. Malloy's first town hall budget meeting.
"We circulated items to people from 105 of the 169 towns last year," Bleiweis said. "Our ability to access information shouldn't be stopped at the borders."
Your local librarians, who quietly defend our right to free speech and fight for both the privacy of patrons and open access to all information, deserve another pat on the back.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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