Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Recession raises use of local libraries, but also costs them state funding

"An economic crunch has caused many people nationwide to entrust in an old standby for entertainment and information: libraries," reports David Allen of The Shelby Star in North Carolina. When people can no longer afford to pay for Internet access or buy new books, they turn to their local library.

"When times are tough, that's when library usage is the busiest," Cleveland County Memorial Library Director Carol Wilson told the Star. At her library the number daily visitors is up by 200 hundred people from 500 to 700. "Public computer usage is up 25 percent, despite people being guaranteed they can utilize the computers longer," Allen writes. People are using their computer time to search for jobs and fill out applications online.

However, the recession also means that funding for libraries may be cut. North Carolina has cut the Cleveland County library by $161,000 and more cuts could be coming. When use is up and money is down, libraries depend heavily on donations and fewer purchases of new materials. (Read more; hat tip to Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute.)

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