Essay on Assessing Public Library Literature: Public Library Funding

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Overview

Public libraries receive funding from a variety of sources — taxes, grants, and fundraising groups akin to the Friends of the Library and/or library foundations. The research completed to date examines the demographics of funding and how it affects library service. Additionally, as tax revenues, and other avenues of government support decline, research shows that fundraising has become increasingly important to the library and its patrons.
Sei-Ching Joanna Sin (2011) researched the role of demographics, specifically median income, in funding decisions. Knowledge gained from prior study showed that libraries in less affluent service areas offered fewer services and were more likely to be shut down. In order to summarize
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Rather, “higher levels of demand may be met with demands for increased cost effectiveness” and increased funding levels are often the result of protest rather than good opinion (p. 423).
Interestingly, a 2002 study by A.B. Ashman found that it is fundraising, not funding, that differentiates between “mediocre libraries and excellent ones” (p. 55). Ashman surveyed library directors in Kentucky on their fundraising practices, specifically fundraising through their Friends groups. He then compared those responses with earlier responses to similar surveys of library directors nationwide. From this, Ashman found that, although 56% of all libraries pursued funding through their Friends group, only 19% of Kentucky’s mostly rural libraries did the same (p. 52). He further found that libraries with a service area of 33,000+ persons were more likely to pursue additional funding (p. 49) than were the smaller libraries that would derive its greater benefits. Obstacles cited as to why fundraising was not pursued in Kentucky ranged from lack of public interest to the poor state of the local economy.
One key element to both funding and fundraising is the library advocate. Imhoff (2006) defines an advocate as “a person who is committed to the importance of public libraries in a democracy and is willing to tell others” (p. 156). Because an advocate can often accomplish things that the staff cannot, libraries should know

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