State Lawmakers May Cut All Funding For Public Libraries

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The future of many public libraries in the state of Florida may be in jeopardy.
State lawmakers are considering cutting its library funding to make up a $3 billion dollar budget shortfall.
Many rural libraries in our area may not survive the cuts.

The Calhoun County Public Library is a favorite spot for both residents and visitors.
Eric Cichy and his wife, Jaki, are originally from Wisconsin but they spend their winters in the Panhandle.
"Oh, it's fantastic, we can come here and spend our time, we can find out anything we want on the internet, we can use our own computer here, we can find almost any book that we want."
The Cichys, who visit the library at least three times a week, consider it to be an invaluable resource.
Which is why they can't understand how the state could consider cutting its funding.
"We can't let that happen here, I mean, education and literacy are probably the most important things we can give our children."
"Our hearts just dropped and it didn't just drop for everything we've invested in these libraries but for the services to our most vulnerable populations."
Rita Mulpin has been Calhoun County's Library Director since 1986.
She says state aid accounts for at least two-thirds of their operating budget.
"I have never known the state legislature not to be able to give us some level of state funding and I think there's a possibility that next year, if we get any at all that it's going to be very low."
This facility is more than a place of learning for the area.
People can also access state services like jobs, food stamps, and technological training.
Skip Sanborn earned his literacy certificate here.
And other counties in our area are facing the same crisis.
State aid accounts for at least a third of the budget for the public libraries in Jackson, Holmes and Washington Counties.
Mulpin says if they do lose all state funding, she will have to cut salaries in addition to internet, literacy programs and operating hours.
"I really see no reason for it closing, it would be to my advantage and most of the people in Calhoun County for it to stay open," says resident Nancy Arrant.
"If this comes to libraries in Florida, I don't know how we will build back from it."

The House Transportation and Economic Development Committee is proposing a $500,000 dollar budget for state aid, and $1 million for library cooperative grants.

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