At the heart of a vibrant community is the public library.
We can all agree that downtown State College is certainly a vibrant community, and Schlow Centre Region Library continues to be at the heart of it and is usually one of the first places people visit after moving to the area.
More than 900 people enter Schlow Centre Region Library every day to read, study, use computers, attend lectures, hold meetings, play board games and much more.
“It is a community space with something for everyone. When we first moved to the area with our babies, this was where we started to feel at home. Now we are fully integrated and the kids are growing up in the library.”
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Schlow has received hundreds of comments such as those over the years from people who use the library. Libraries such as Schlow are considered an essential part of having an educated and engaged population. Yet, today, these community assets face their worst challenge. The attacks, in the form of funding cuts, are coming from, of all places, our state and federal governments.
Public libraries are loved and used. Aging physical plants and crowded bookshelves have not diminished their use. Nor, as some might think, has the appearance of e-books and other forms of electronic offerings.
In fact, library use has increased over the years.
Our 400 public libraries in Pennsylvania provide computers, films, meeting spaces, reading programs for all ages, public presentations and more. They are true community centers.
“I am a single mother of three and a student at Penn State. … I love the library,” one patron said. “My family comes here every week even though we live miles away. I cannot afford to buy all the books and movies I want for my kids, but with Schlow, we still have access.”
Managing all that Schlow and other libraries do is a complicated task, and state and federal funding cuts are making it even more difficult.
Most of Schlow’s funding, 59 percent, comes from the sponsoring municipalities of the Centre Region Council of Governments. They know a good thing when they see it, and we thank them for their support.
The problems lie with Harrisburg and Washington. Since 2008, Schlow has lost a total of $1.6 million in annual state support. A generous community of financial donors and volunteers has stepped up to help, but it’s not enough to close the gap. This has led to cuts in hours, book purchases and staffing.
The new proposed federal budget will make things even worse. President Donald Trump has proposed elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funds literacy and technology grants.
Each state receives funding through the IMLS to support grants for libraries and nonprofit literacy organizations that work to improve community access to technology and reading skills in early childhood. This federal funding gives libraries across the country the financial support they need to serve citizens of all ages.
Schlow has received more than $300,000 in such grants since 2000, and that money has helped fund Schlow’s Web site, 3D-printing, children’s sci-tech programs, and more.
Do you love public libraries? Do you, your family, and your kids use Centre County public libraries?
“It makes me feel I’m part of the community.”
It’s time to join us and make your voices heard.
Please call your federal and state representatives to tell them that you want full funding for public libraries. Your call is important and your voice will be heard!
▪ U. S. Rep. Glenn Thompson 353-0215 (Bellefonte)
▪ Pa. Sen. Jake Corman 355-0477
▪ Pa. Rep. Scott Conklin 238-5477
▪ Pa. Rep. Kerry Benninghoff 355-1300
▪ Pa. Rep. Rich Irvin 644-2996
Public libraries provide the greatest bang for the buck. Unfortunately, we now must fight for continued state and federal support. Please join in the fight to support Schlow and all public libraries. Keep the heart of our communities open!
Nancy Eaton is president of the Schlow Library Foundation.