Dallas Has "Most Poorly Funded Public Library in the United States," Advocates Say

Categories: City Hall

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Drumguy8800
For a city run by a former librarian for most of the past decade, Dallas' libraries haven't gotten a lot of love. They were an easy target for the recession-era budget slashing of 2008, and despite an increase in materials funding last year, still haven't recovered.

Friends of the Dallas Public Library, the nonprofit responsible for many of the classes and programs you'll find at your local branch, made its semi-annual pilgrimage to City Hall to plead for more money.

Their case is a simple one. Dallas, whether you compare it with local suburbs or peer cities nationwide, is stiffing its libraries.

The main downtown library here is open a mere 40 hours per week. That's last among suburbs and large Texas cities, fewer than at the central library Carrollton, Colleyville and University Park (45 hours per week); DeSoto, Duncanville, Forth Worth, and Houston (50-plus); and Arlington, Frisco, Garland, Richardson and San Antonio (60-plus), to name a few.

Dallas also fares poorly when measured by library funding, both as a percentage of its annual budget and per capita.

"Nationally, because of these budget cuts, we are the most poorly funded public library in the United States," said the group's Karen Blumenthal.

Not counting Houston, of course, which spends just $.03 less per person on libraries than Dallas.

The net effect of this, Blumenthal told council members, is that Dallas residents are deprived of a valuable resource. Limited hours mean school kids can't make it to the library to do homework and adults with jobs can't get by to check out materials. For adults without jobs, there aren't as many GED or career training programs. Outreach efforts have had to be curtailed. If current funding holds, the library won't be able to do things like send staff members into schools to promote the mayor's summer reading program.

That's to say nothing of technology. While other libraries offer laptops and other electronic devices to checkout, Dallas is still stuck with rows of desktops. Blumenthal cited a recent instance in which she went to her local branch in hopes of finding a copier or scanner. It didn't have one.

"Of 28 branches only seven have copiers," she said. "They can't afford toner and ink, much less maintenance."

To remedy this, Blumenthal offered a rather bold proposal: Add $6.2 million to the current $22.4 million budget to restore library hours to their pre-recession levels. Then, add another $4 million or so to get the city's library expenditures to 3 percent of the annual budget, which Blumenthal described as a good rule of thumb for successful library systems.

Members of the City Council's Arts, Culture, and Libraries Committee all said nice things about how great libraries are and the need to expand hours and services following the friends' presentation, but they say that every year.

"The budget is absolutely in the ditch this year," committee chairman Philip Kingston told Blumenthal. "It's bad, but ... I'll be in there punching. We will do the best we can to get you funding."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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14 comments
liz3481
liz3481

Eric, I would have like to have a link to the source you used to determine the ranking of our library.  

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Why worry about this, we have a string thingy bridge and an artsy place and plaza; and, soon to come the Floodway Tollway and a horsey park.

GAA214
GAA214

World class.  World class.  World class shit.  Great cities have great public libraries.  I despise the hours of the Forest Green branch.  

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

Just another example of the World Classyness of Big D.

"We don't burn books here in Dallas, we just don't buy them."

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Why not close the central building and fund the neighborhood libraries?  Kids and unemployed except for the homeless are not going to the main library.  Then let's focus the resources for libraries on the poorer parts of town whose children more likely lack resources to pursue substitutes.


becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Can't we just get some Amazon drones to fly around the city? 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

As with zoo and the farmers market, look for Dallas to try to privatize the library system.  It seems Dallas never wants to spend money where it should, but loves to spend it on pretty bridges and useless water rapids and dumb horse parks and rich people golf courses in poor people neighborhoods

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bvckvs  ah yes, of course you dont think we need to spend libraries.  You are just afraid that people will use them and become smarter than you, not that that is hard to do

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@MikeWestEast  

What do you think circulates the books through the neighborhood libraries?  If it is in the card catalog  and not at the branch, put in a request to the circulation desk and they will have it for you in a few days.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

the standing wave is bad ass and you're probably just mad about the mhhb because you live in some crappy suburb instead of overlooking the skyline from glorious kessler park lol

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@benwellsstreet  so you think that is money well spent, as opposed to spending it on libraries or oh I dont know, streets.  Hey Kansas City built an awesome bridge over their river and did it for a bout tenth of the cost of MHHB.  But woohoo, we got a Calatrava.  BTW how is the rest of Calatrava's stuff holding up around the world?  Maybe while your sipping your martini in glorious kessler park you can google that on your Ipad

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@benwellsstreet  So did you take time to see Valencia is suing him?  Or any other of the projects that are falling apart? haha, no I dont wish I lived in Oak Cliff, I promise I dont, especially if its inhabited by asshats like you.  Thanks.

benwellsstreet
benwellsstreet

We're getting another calatrava soon so get your gold bond ready, because your panties will be bunched up pretty bad.

Suck it, suburbanite. You wished you lived in oak cliff.

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