Bobby Jindal: Libraries? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Libraries!

No libraries for you, little people of Louisiana! Bobby Jindal just signed a $25 billion dollar budget that cut all state funding for libraries, which wasn't exactly a huge porkfest to begin with ($900,000). He says it's just not a huge priority for the state, citing health care and education funding as first priorities.

Of course, let's not forget that education funding means sending lots of state money to church and corporate-run charter schools in Louisiana. What a guy.

Jindal claimed that libraries can be funded with local money and donations, with federal funds making up the difference in their budgets. Not so fast, Bobby.

Louisiana Division of Administration spokesman Michael DiResto told LJ: “The FY 13 Louisiana budget includes two federal technology grants for the State Library for the purchase of e-books ($1 million), which local libraries can use through the interlibrary loan program, and to provide statewide technology training and equipment for public libraries ($782K) – for a total of almost $1.8 million, which more than makes up for the $896K in direct state funding.”

However, those federal technological funds from the BTOP program are earmarked specifically for providing training, laptops for citizens to check out, and accessible workstations for the blind. As such they cannot be distributed to local libraries to maintain, upgrade, or replace the in-library desktop PCs and servers that were previously covered by state aid. Increased access to ebooks may help make up for lack of collection development dollars to some extent, but since 34-43 percent of Louisiana residents don’t have Internet access at home, ebooks can’t completely replace the lost dollars for print materials, especially in poorer areas.

Yes, poor people rely on libraries for access to the Internet, which is how they search for jobs, learn, read, and other things. Shutting off their Internet access while replacing paper books with e-Books is particularly cynical. Here's what happens to the poorer area libraries as a result of Jindal's pecuniary ways:

LJ caught up with several of the smaller Louisiana libraries which are hardest hit by the cuts. Mary Bennett Lindsey, director of the two-parish Audubon Regional Library, operates three libraries and a bookmobile. Lindsey told LJ, “we were getting almost $50,000 [in state aid], which is 10 percent of our budget.” Of that, Audubon allocated $30,000 for books—$12000 more than the system would otherwise be able to spend. “Which isn’t an awful lot when you divide by three, but it’s enough to keep up with the current bestsellers and buying an encyclopedia once in a while,” she said. Audubon used the balance of the aid for technology: replacing 15 computer workstations and covering the portion of the library’s new server which is not funded by the Federal erate program.

With that aid gone, “I’m just going to pray,” Lindsey told LJ. “We’ll just have to cut back on books and hope we get through. If our server goes down or the switches go down, it’s going to have to come from somewhere. It’s not going to come from utilities; we’re barely paying people above minimum wage so it’s not going to come out of salary, we may have to cut hours.”

Lindsey explains that the library computers are a lifeline because “the state requires you to do unemployment online, welfare online. They are closing the local parish offices and they say go to the library, but the library doesn’t get any extra money for IT.

On the other hand, Jindal has cut taxes six times and is a Grover Norquist favorite. So there's that. Three cheers for oligarchy!

[h/t Balloon Juice]


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