Wednesday, September 07, 2011

"It's a brave new world at the library" by Mark Sommer

From the Buffalo News, Sunday September 4, 2011, p A1, A9

Libraries locally and across the country are facing enormous challenges from the rapid advance of technology, changing community needs and increased use.

Yet, while they're being asked to do more during these economically hard times, their budgets and staffing have been slashed.

That's the case with the 37-branch Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system, which is struggling to serve its patrons and keep abreast of technological changes while coping with austerity measures.

'While usage has increased and the sophistication of the technology has increased, and the demand for assistance from library staff has increased, libraries have had to cut back on staffing, hours of opening, collections and technology because their budgets have been radically cut,' said Susan Kent, who consults with library systems nationally and internationally, including in Buffalo, where she is helping lead its Reimagine Campaign."

Another excerpt:

"The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system had 3.9 million patron visits in 2010, a 10-year high that continued a five-year trend.

At the same time, it has had its budget reduced by the state and, more dramatically, the county in recent years, resulting in 6.7 fewer weekly hours per branch, 45 fewer full-time staff and fewer acquisitions in 2011.
Full-time staff, which stood at 398 in 1995, is now 179.

'What concerns us is what is lost along the way,' said Tim Galvin, president of the librarians union. 'The quality of service we provide has been diminished, including the level of human interaction people are used to.'"

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