Give to library drive


POSTED: Tuesday, September 08, 2009

While the state Board of Education considers closing or reducing hours of libraries, their patrons are trying to raise enough money to keep them open at normal hours. The fundraising effort is a noble and important effort to keep libraries fully functioning at a time when they are most needed.

Library closures have been proposed or instituted recently in Dallas, Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and Norwich, Conn. In Seattle, where 80 percent of adults have library cards, the city shut down its highly acclaimed downtown library and 26 branches all of last week to save $655,000 in its attempt to cut the libraries' budget by 2 percent, or $1 million.

Libraries' function of providing reading material to children and adults has been expanded during the recession to help the unemployed find job listings, extend books to those who can no longer afford bookstore prices and connect with the Internet they no longer can afford at home. Patronage is up 10 percent to 30 percent at libraries across the country. Hawaii libraries report an increase in book circulation of at least 3 percent and of Internet use even more.

Aware of the need, Hawaii school board members are reluctant to close some libraries and require employees to take two days a month off without pay to close a $3.6 million budget shortfall. The proposal will be considered this week, as state Librarian Richard Burns begins negotiations with public employee unions. Libraries at Kealakekua on the Big Island and Lahaina on Maui are in danger of being closed because of being short-staffed.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Library Hawaii and 28 branch affiliates, along with the state Public Library System, launched a “;Keep the Doors Open!”; fundraising drive last week with a goal of raising at least $3 million to make up most and perhaps all of the shortfall.

They have established accounts at Bank of Hawaii for the library system and for each library branch, asking that library patrons contribute at least $3. Each library also is accepting donations.

“;This is an opportunity for residents to say, 'My library is important, and of course I can give $3,”; says Byrde Cestare, executive director of Friends of the Library of Hawaii.

Branch closures, reduced hours and job cuts have left cities scrambling for cash during the economic downturn, said American Library Association President Camila Alire. If successful, Hawaii's unprecedented fundraising effort to stabilize the nation's only statewide system of public libraries could be a model for city and county systems on the mainland.