There are 396 public library systems in Michigan serving our more than 10 million residents (with more than 50% of Michigan residents possessing a library card). Since March 2020, most of our libraries' buildings have been physically closed but that hasn’t stopped libraries from continuing to provide essential and critical services for Michigan residents during the global pandemic.
As you are probably aware, library staff pivoted quickly to this new reality and began to provide library services in new and innovative ways, especially services for children. Libraries have implemented virtual programs, remote reference services, delivery and curbside pick-up services and pivoted to support children's literacy and educational development through online storytimes, grab and go craft and maker kits, personalized book bundles and more. They have boosted their WiFi from their parking lots (now available 24/7), purchased more eBooks and digital content, partnered with the Census Bureau and urged Michigan residents to fill out the 2020 Census to achieve a full count, and provided reference services via phone from their remote offices. In all 83 Michigan counties, our libraries continue to work closely and cooperatively with community organizations to address COVID-19 challenges.
Access to all library services is at risk exactly when they are most needed. The coronavirus pandemic has caused reductions in charitable contributions, lower than normal penal fine distributions, and all are anticipating lower property taxes (thus reducing library millage capture) in the coming year. These reductions will seriously impact library service and staff layoffs will certainly be a part of the equation.
We know that our legislative leaders recognize the vital services that libraries provide in our communities, the importance of keeping library workers on the job, and our libraries' need for help to defray the costs related to safe reopening. We know you are supportive of library services to millions of patrons, including:
- High-speed internet access and digital literacy training
- Resources to facilitate remote learning for educators and students of all ages
- Employment assistance, from resume writing to job search and career skills training
- Support in applying for government services such as veteran’s benefits, unemployment assistance, and medical coverage
- Programs that foster early literacy, entrepreneurship, and lifelong learning
We know that this year’s budget for the State of Michigan is going to be hard to balance, we don’t envy your position. With that being said, however, we want to make sure that the activities that make our communities the thriving and dynamic places our citizens want to live, work and visit continue to resonate with you, and that you know the impact that libraries make, both individually and economically, in the communities you represent.
On behalf of 1700 members in Michigan, the Michigan Library Association urges you to continue to support state aid to libraries at $12,067,700 (about .39 cents/capita), so our libraries can continue to provide access to vital resources for all Michiganders, including our most vulnerable and disenfranchised citizens, throughout this global crisis.
Michigan residents love their local libraries. We know you do too. Please continue to support them through this unprecedented time.