Disinvesting in Libraries: Anti-Stimulus

Yesterday, the Lompoc Record (Lompoc, Calif.) published a story about a new round of budget cuts facing the Lompoc Public Library system. (Similar cuts taking place all over California, and in other states.)

Budget cuts have already left a “shovel ready” children’s library expansion project in limbo as the Lompoc library recently lost $1.05 million in construction funding. They now need $2.04 million to get the project underway, and “there’s no timeline for construction.”

Meanwhile, Lompoc Public Library board member Maria Aguiniga notes that the cuts to library services “are affecting some of the most vulnerable in the community.”

“I think that some of us are fortunate to have computer and Internet in our household,” Aguiniga said. “We think everyone has the same access and that is not the case. People go into the library to seek employment, to type up resumes and to do research.”

In other words, the Lompoc Public Library has been forced to (1) indefinitely delay an initiative that is immediately stimulative to the economy (construction of a new children’s library), and (2) reduce services that provide a long-term benefit to the economy by providing resources for people to improve their skills and look for work.

Multiply this by a few thousand communities where similar cuts and funding gaps exist, and it’s not hard to imagine how library cutbacks can act as a drag on overall economic growth, especially in states where cuts have been the most severe.

In the District of Columbia, where I live, public library budget cuts haven’t been quite as bad as they have been in states like California, particularly in terms of new construction: several beautiful brand new or revamped branch libraries have opened in D.C. neighborhoods over the last few years. But many of those branches have been forced to reduce their hours, and funds for new materials has been dramatically reduced because of overall budget cuts to the system.