Library usage is up in Iowa, following national trends. At the same time, many library budgets are being cut as cities look for ways to balance the books. A recent survey by the State Library found that visits to Iowa libraries have increased by seven-percent over the past six months.
State Librarian Mary Wegner says the numbers aren’t surprising. "Two-thirds of all Iowans have library cards that they use and so we’re not surprised to find this increased use," Wegner says. "We are concerned about what these tough economic times will mean for libraries, but we want to remind Iowans that libraries are a great bargain and a great service to them in these days."
A survey of 50 public libraries serving more than half of the state’s population shows usage has more than doubled in the last six months as the economy has soured. Des Moines city officials have asked the capitol city’s public libraries to find 300-thousand-dollars in cuts.
Des Moines Public Library director Saul Amdursky says it’s the "perfect storm." "When you do community surveys, libraries invariably are the most beloved of community institutions, you know, when you’re rating them, you know, against fellow departments, but city managers will take a look and say: ‘The last thing I can cut are police and fire and sewers, you know, operations,’" Arndursky says.
"So while you have libraries as the most beloved, they are probably the most vulnerable when it comes to budget cuts."
Amdursky and Wenger made their comments on Iowa Public Radio’s "Talk at Twelve" program.