Author's Charts Show Where Dallas Ranks Among Nation's Libraries. (Spoiler: Low.)

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Courtesy Friends of the Dallas Public Library
Karen Blumenthal was once a Wall Street Journal bureau chief and continues to write about the money business for the newspaper; and that's her name on the books Mr. Sam: How Sam Walton Built Walmart and Became America's Richest Man and Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. Blumenthal is also on the board of directors of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library. Which is why she sent me the note and chart that follow.

It has to do with more cuts to the library's budget, as proposed in City Manager Mary Suhm's FY2011-12 budget. As I noted only last week, Suhm -- herself a former librarian -- is reinstating about $340,000 for materials downtown (a 20-percent bump over the FY2010-11 budget), but that's still a pittance compared to where the budget once was. And dozens are being laid off. And hours will remain limited, at both the central library and the branches. It's all so very far from "world class," which is why Mayor Mike Rawlings has resurrected an old city council arts committee and tasked it with finding "alternative funding sources for arts, culture and libraries."

Blumenthal writes that she is "distressed that the city is proposing to cut another $1.4 million from a budget that has now been slashed by more than 40% over the last four years." So, she and the Friends have put together a series of charts showing how much Dallas spends on its libraries -- and how that ranks statewide and nationally. If it's a race to the bottom, we're all winners.
On behalf of the Friends, I've done some research on how Dallas compares with its peers in Texas and across the nation, and really, it's just heartbreaking. You'll see in the charts attached that while Dallas has been cutting and cutting its library spending, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth have actually been rebuilding their budgets. It's so bad that the city of Fort Worth plans to spend more on libraries next year than Dallas does.

The city is boasting that it plans to increase the materials budget to $2 million from about $1.7 million last year -- and less than $1 million the year before. That's good news, for sure, but in terms of spending on materials per citizen, Dallas is one of the lowest among cities of any size in the nation, even with the increase. A city our size should have a budget and a materials budget that is about twice where ours currently is.

I would froth at the mouth about how important the library is, how many people ours serves and how great the demand is for books, DVDs, databases and newspapers, but I'm told you already understand that.
Library Charts 08 2011
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7 comments
eastdallasgirl
eastdallasgirl

I wonder if the Richardson Library was considered for this list?  This library is quite resourceful, and just like the Dallas Library, provides access globally to library products through WorldCat and other search sites. The computer room offers 50-75 computers, thus making it possible for anyone to get online at anytime. The new technology for ereaders, podcasts and ebooks is up-to-date.

Mike
Mike

We need to determine the basic purpose of the library in 2011.  The library is no longer a service used by the majority of citizens.  We keep cutting it because fewer people are impacted.  It's not because they are stupid.  They just have access to same thing via other means.  If it is just to make books available for people that can't afford books, and a place to read, let's think about closing the main library and keeping the branches that are closest to the people that need the books. 

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

The city with the tax money it has wastes it on Toll Road Studies, decking expressways, suspension bridges, and convention a center hotel.   I had a friend (a real burn out case) whose father once told him “If I have 20 dollars and I owe someone 20 dollars and I go off and spend it on beer I have not spent my money correctly”.   This advice went in one ear of  my friend and out the other.   Clueless.   The city is just like him-mentally burned out-dead in the head.   If they have tax dollars and spend it on another study to try to keep the toll road alive in the Trinity River for example-when they could have spent it on lets say libraries-  then they (the city council and staff) have not spent the tax dollars correctly.   And what do you know-just like my burned out friend it goes in one ear and out the other. Off the top of my head I can recall 300,000.00 spent on new foliage for central expressway (during a record drought-probably all dead now) and spent an extra 10 million to try to put suspension bridge accents on what was to be the 2nd suspension bridge which we do not have funds for.   What an incompetent and criminal waste of money by the city.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Im going to guess the reason many of these cities in TX are spending more is due to both proper taxation and forethought. Dallas seems to lack in both of those things, especially when taxing large businesses. One thing Dallas govt. needs to realize is that a world-class library system directly ties into the education and social consciousness of the local populace (i.e. less learning opportunity = stupid people). Its this type of "small town thinking" thats gotten Dallas into its current predicament.

sizzler
sizzler

without being too conspiratorial, do you think that there is no forethought behind this? stupid people= exploitable

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Dallas is behind Tulsa and OK City?

World Class!

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