Having spent some of the better parts of my undergraduate years studying away within the musty confines of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s (aka Mizzou) Ellis Library, I’ve formed a certain affinity toward them. Libraries that is.
So naturally, the Governor’s recent budget proposal, specifically the part about slashing the state’s support for libraries by some $5.8 million, caught our out attention….and then our ire.
Springfield-Greene County Library Associate Director Jim Schmidt said of the proposed cuts:
“State aid to libraries was a $3,500,000 budget appropriation and it was reduced to $723,000; and the REAL allocation, which was $3.1 million, was zeroed out completely.”
-News Talk KZRG
Now I’ll be the first to admit arithmetic isn’t my strong suite (a B- in College Algebra at a proud SEC institution notwithstanding). But that’s a $6.6 million in potential budget suddenly pared down to a mere $723,000.
When we consider the totality of our state’s population, an estimated 6.06 million people. That’s an average cost of $1.10 per year per citizen.
Which equals exactly .00000822 % of Governor Nixon’s salary….hmmm.
So why does this matter? Wikipedia practically replaced the modern library anyway right?
As a Wikipedia devotee myself, I’d normally agree. Yet one must consider also that libraries aren’t just a place to “rent” books and movies on the cheap. Often, they provide the only and/or best internet access to people who otherwise can’t afford decent home access or even a computer than can handle today’s media-heavy web. Many people (including the Nixon Administration) forget that America isn’t nearly as “wired” as it is often presumed. Yet, few would argue that internet access isn’t a necessity in many respects. Closing down libraries wouldn’t just be getting rid of a quaint symbol of civic virtue. It would be massively screwing over the poor’s capability to interact with an increasingly computerized world.
We at 24th State Solutions aren’t naive, however. We understand that from time to time, budget fluctuations can be a necessary step to move forward. But we’re of the belief that cuts of 50+% (or in this case, more so) are not the way forward in any budgetary situation (as our friends in Kansas are learning). If a budgetary cut of that significance is necessary, it should be executed at a graduated rate of a period of a set number of years, not an instantaneous gutting as is the case here.
Nonetheless, this story has really gotten a tad ridiculous, especially after a group of students were forcibly removed by capitol police from the Governor’s office for merely asking questions. That’s not message our state government should be sending, especially to high school students. That’s not Missouri.
As someone who pulled the lever for Governor Nixon in 2012, this is not only not Progressive but disappointing (to say the least).
We’ll be monitoring this situation in the coming weeks, all the while hoping these funds, or a least a significant portion of them, are ultimately restored.