Kansas public library service model is threatened

This post is in response to advocacy efforts in the Kansas library community, opposing HB 2719. A hearing for this bill is scheduled for Monday, March 14, 2016. Please IMMEDIATELY contact the House Taxation Committee members and your local representative, asking them to oppose this bill. HB 2719 will end Kansas public library service as we now know it. #ksleg

Full disclosure: I am an employee of a Kansas regional library system. These thoughts are my own and not my employer’s. I am not advocating for my job. I am advocating for the citizens of Kansas who deserve maintaining equity and efficient public library service by keeping current funding models and practices in place, and oppose HB2719 as a result. 

Kansas has always leaned conservative. But it’s been common sense conservatism until recently. We’re a small urban/rural split state. Communities large & small take great pride in their public schools, public libraries, community health, and great public roads.

Kansas had figured out how to do much within its communities w modest tax dollar investments over the years in public services.

But now, in the name of low/no tax dollars at all levels of government, legislation keeps getting introduced & (at times) later passed that threatens communities.

Kansas has great public schools; I’m the proud graduate of one. It’s been hard enough watching schools and teachers go under attack for the past several years.

But to go after public library funding models with HB 2719? Especially in a state where so many libraries are already at bare minimum funding levels (32.4% have budgets under $20,000)? That’s fighting words.

Trust me. Librarians already stretch your tax dollars to the nth degree. They are already good public stewards.

Librarians and libraries provide so much to communities. Services & focuses vary.
Public computers.
Printers. Books.
Tech help.
Tax filing access.
Friendly faces.

At end of day, those services mean we help people

Grow Businesses.
Create Better Communities.
Change Lives.

Changing the way public libraries in KS are funded & supported & can be funded w HB2719‘s intentions means an end to these services.

For the smallest of communities (106 — 32.4% — of KS pub libs have budgets under $20,000), that means their local public library’s existence is threatened. Many others don’t have budgets much large than that.

Why are they threatened?

With HB 2719, regional library systems may not be able to maintain current funding levels due to several parts of HB 2719, including mill levy reduction and requiring special elections across multiple counties each year for budget approval.

Regional library systems are a somewhat hidden part of the Kansas library community. We do modestly tax rural property not already taxed by a local public library. But we turn around and directly invest that money back into your local public, school, and academic libraries, through direct grants, subsidizing and managing resource sharing (like statewide library courier service and the NExpress Shared Catalog), technology support, continuing education, and consulting.

The most visible way we provide service today?

Regional shared catalogs — like NExpress — and supporting other library technology services.

These catalogs are the most brilliant part of what is going on in Kansas libraries. We don’t toot our own horns often enough about this.

These systems connect libraries across the state at the regional and statewide level through various computer systems, and materials are shared easily thanks to a statewide library courier service.

I know people don’t like tax dollars. But a small tax investment either for your local public library or your regional library system = equal library service for all KS communities.

We work best when we work together and modestly fund public services. That’s the Kansas I grew up in, and that’s Kansas I want to live in.

Please contact your representative immediately and ask for HB2719 to be withdrawn. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Kansas public library service model is threatened”

    1. This was wonderful Tom. I’m sorry I didn’t see it any sooner as I’m in the process (now) of traveling back home from Philadelphia. I’ll definitely share it widely!

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