Congress Considers Emergency Funding for Public Libraries
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Many Tennesseans depend on libraries for everything from paying bills, to Telehealth appointments, to completing coursework.
Earlier this month, lawmakers introduced legislation, known as the Library Stabilization Fund Act, that would provide $2 billion in emergency relief funding to libraries across the country, including at least $10 million for Tennessee.
Corinne Hill, Chattanooga Public Library executive director, said building maintenance, personal protective equipment purchases and other costly pandemic-related expenses have stretched her budget thin.
"The longer this goes on, the more strain we're going to feel on our budget. And we're definitely going to need help moving forward," Hill said. "And I think that the assistance that would come from the Library Stabilization Fund Act, we really have to have it if we're going to meet the increasing community needs and be able to reopen safely," she added.
She noted cash-strapped local governments are the primary source of funding for the 88 public libraries across the state, serving more than 3 million library cardholders. Time is running out for Congress to pass the legislation before the August recess.
Hill pointed out while many library services can be utilized online, individuals who lack internet access at home are being left behind.
"People who have access to high-speed broadband, move very, very quickly and seamlessly into our online environment," said Hill. "We saw a 46% increase in our e-book and audio-book downloads and a significant level of engagement with our online video programming."
Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library Director, said residents who can't walk through the doors of their public library to job-search online are at a disadvantage, which has been worsened by the public health crisis.
"Those resources that are online are being accessed by people who have lost their jobs, and need a network to be able to job seek. People that need to put together resumes," Oliver said.
He said many people may not realize the range of job-related services libraries provide, including help with resume writing, online job searching and GED certification.
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