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Gavel Books

It’s not often that libraries find themselves on the receiving end of a major lawsuit, but that’s exactly what’s going on right now in Kentucky.  Many library systems across the state are now being rolled into a lawsuit that could potentially strip them of millions of dollars, and result in cuts to services and employment across the board.

The lawsuit itself is rooted in an obscure 50 year old 1964 law which stated that libraries would need to get a 51% voter approval in order to raise the taxes in their district from year to year.  These taxes represented the direct operational monies for the library systems, and is what is used to sustain their services.  Recently, taxpayers in both Kenton and Campbell counties filed a suit that argued that several library districts in the past half century have not been following the law, and have improperly raised taxes on those within their areas.

Shortly after, in the Spring of 2013, circuit judges in the north of Kentucky upheld the plaintiffs’ claims.  This was followed by appeals from the library districts in question.  This Monday, December 15th, attorneys for Kenton and Campbell library districts made their case, which hinged largely upon the repercussions of retroactive punishment to the state’s library systems, but also cited another law, House Bill 44, from 1979.

The bill states that, as long as the amount increase constitutes a 4% or less increase in income from the year before, libraries can raise their taxes without voter approval.  Furthermore, libraries have been advised by officials in the past to follow this statute when considering their tax applications.

Jeffrey Mando, an attorney for Campbell’s library system, noted as well that no one objected to the practice for 30+ years, and it’s unclear why people are now seeking some sort of back pay for their taxes going to the libraries.

Those pushing for the lawsuit say that every dollar that goes into a library system is taxpayer money, and suggest that people may have objected had they known about what was going on earlier.

The repercussions of a decision against the libraries could affect nearly 100 systems in the state, and could also be dramatic.  According to library officials, these cuts, if ordered in full, would mean a downsizing of the library budget for the foreseeable future of more than 50%.

Cutbacks would mean library staff layoffs, branch closures, cuts to outreach and children’s programs, reduced computer and technology access, no school visits via “bookmobiles,” etc.  The unfortunate reality is that, while it’s true that libraries are publically funded, they are also tools and places that are 100% for the public communities they serve as well.  In a fairly direct way, taxpayer money is quickly given back to the people.

Proponents argue that the issue is ideological, and represents a violation of the people’s ability to determine what their taxes are used for and where their hard money ultimately ends up.  It remains to be seen how the case will play out in court.

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Libraries are hosting themed events for the holidays

by Public Libraries on December 10, 2014

Book Gift

The community hub that libraries provide is valuable at all times throughout the year, but holidays provide the context for some truly magical settings.  This is especially true around Christmas, and the library system in Rockingham County, North Carolina, is planning some literal holiday magic for its patrons.

This week, they welcomed a magic duo by the names of Chris and Neil to entertain library-goers.  On December 9th, the free show began around 6:30pm in the Calvin Little Exhibit Hall.  There were only 150 tickets to the event, on a first come first served basis, and patrons only needed to come into the library and request a ticket to receive one while they were available.

While the duo has performed at the venue already this year, this marked the first ‘Rock Start Christmas Show’ for the duo and for the library, and people were excited.  Event coordinator Debbie Knight says that the duo have been extremely supportive of literacy events in the past and are always eager to help the library community in the area; she’s not surprised they were willing to perform for the event.  For one of their tricks, Knight related excitedly, the magic duo made it snow inside of the actual venue.

Other libraries nearby are planning their own holiday events as well.  One, for example, is going to have Santa making an appearance at a Hamlet library on December 12th, children will be able to visit with him for the day.  In addition, children will be able to visit a special candy bar for some tasty treats and also pick out a wrapped present from under the tree.

Libraries in the area will also be hosting crafting activities, such as ornament making; children will be able to take everyday objects (old standbys like popsicle sticks are rumored to make an appearance) and make their own Christmas tree ornaments.

Festivities already kicked off earlier, when a “Polar Express” day was hosted.  Children were invited for a reading of the original book, before a screening of the more contemporary Tom Hanks animated film was shown.  To top the event off, employees of the library made a train out of boxes provided by nearby businesses.  The events will run on various days up until the 24th of December, when the library is closed until the 27th, and then again for January first.

Rockingham’s libraries are far from the only ones hosting some holiday cheer, however.  Across the country, a number of library systems hold Christmas or holiday themed events both as a service to the community and as a recruitment tool.  Getting children off of their phones and tablets and into the public library is harder than ever, and making the library a fun and exciting place early on in the lives of patrons is a good way to get them to continue to value the library’s services for life.  Who knows, your own libraries are probably hosting events as well – be sure to support and check them out.

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New York Public Library offers free wireless mobile hotspots

December 3, 2014
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New York City understands the importance of internet access in our current day and age.  Even New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has proposed several measures in recent years to help bring access to those in the city who might not have it yet.  In many cases, city officials have found, cost is still a barrier that keeps some of its residents from getting online via their own broadband subscriptions. […]

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MIT appoints new director of libraries

November 25, 2014
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The league of schools within which MIT, Stanford, and others like them exist is an exclusive one to be sure. It represents the upper echelon of traditional academia. Part of the challenge of maintaining this image means hiring nothing but the best staff and faculty to ensure that the institution continues to move forward and upward. This past Friday, MIT took that step in appointing a new director of its […]

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New library in San Diego gets a new director

November 19, 2014
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San Diego, as many other cities, is looking to bring its library system into the 21st century.  Of course, that’s no easy task when the very definition of the technological cutting edge – in the library world and in every other sector – changes from day to day.  Rapid advancements in both the needs of community users and the services that libraries can provide have driven rapid turnover within the […]

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Detroit gets its first Little Free Library

November 11, 2014
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Ever heard of a Little Free Library?  If not, you’ve probably seen one as you’ve driven or walked around. They are probably the world’s smallest libraries.  In fact, there are over 20,000 of them worldwide now, with a high concentration of them located in the US. These “little free libraries” function as the name implies; they’re basically oversized mailboxes – though usually decorated or built out of nice wood – […]

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Community funding can really help libraries in need

November 5, 2014
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With the economic roller coaster of the past decade still very much in focus, state budgets are often cutting costs wherever they can.  Unfortunately some lawmakers deem libraries as “non-essential” parts of government services.  This can mean a severe shortfall in the amount of funding received versus the amount needed. In Springfield, Missouri, however, community funding efforts organized by groups formed to help promote library activities are helping to supplement […]

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Florida library program looks to encourage young authors

October 27, 2014
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Remember the days of free library programs? Once upon a time, not too long ago, children especially could find a variety of programs at their local libraries ranging from help with school studies, to story times, to workshops, to crafting tutorials. These types of programs represented the heyday of the library as a treasured local fixture… and they’re making a comeback. Nowhere is this more true than in Florida, at […]

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Students get an excuse slip if they cannot access a library computer

October 20, 2014
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If you don’t have a computer, you can’t do your homework. That’s the dilemma many kids are running into in Miami, Florida – and across the country these days. It’s a big reason the South Dade Library computer laboratory has been crowded to capacity on most school nights. Christina Morua is a mother of two young children who do not have the luxury of the internet in their home. Many […]

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Ohio library system gets more visitors by offering more than books

October 14, 2014
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Across the United States, libraries have had to become more than just a place to check out books. It’s no different for the Licking County Library in Newark, Ohio. Patrons are now coming to the library to go online and view information on the internet, watch movies, and even participate in a yoga session. Director of the Licking County Library, Babette Wofter said it is the job of the library […]

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