Dallas Libraries Attempt to Raise Money the City Won't Give Them

The city pays for library "buildings and bodies," but anything else the libraries need must be provided by donors.
The city pays for library "buildings and bodies," but anything else the libraries need must be provided by donors.

If the city won't give money to Dallas libraries, maybe the community will. Thursday was North Texas Giving Day, which means Friends of the Dallas Public Libraries, along with other north Texas do-gooder groups, were busy rattling their tin cans for spare change to raise money that, in the library's case, the city should already be providing.

See also: Dallas' Libraries, Among the Nation's Worst Funded, May Actually Get Some More Money

Last month, city staff released the budget plan for the next fiscal year. After several rounds of negotiations, the city settled on an additional $3.8 million to go toward the library budget. The raise comes after years of cuts, steadily driving the annual budget from $32 million in 2008 to last year's budget of $22 million.

Now, signs of improvement are on the horizon. The budget will jump to over $25 million starting in October, and increase to $28 million next year. Still, the budget improvements provide just enough for staffing needs and facility maintenance -- for "buildings and bodies," says Kate Park, president of Friends of the Dallas Public Library.

"We pay for GED classes, ESL classes, story times, coding classes, the Mayor's Summer Reading, senior technology classes and technology upgrades. The city budget does not pay for those programs, so donations have to pay for all of those programs," says Park. "Libraries need more than just staff, to pay for these programs and to allow the library to be innovative and have some resources to try some new things."

Friends of the Dallas Public Library pulled in about $10,000 last year on Giving Day, and hopes to pull in more this year. But the money is a pittance compared to the additional $3 million the city allotted for library programs and technology before 2008.

"It's going to take awhile to improve the library. There's technology we want to put in that didn't even exist in 2008. So it's about giving the library enough resources to grow, and to recover," says Park. "When the libraries are open and materials available, people will use the library."

For now, supporters of the library still hope the city will bounce the library budget back to the full amount next year. "I feel like people are starting to recognize again the value of the library in their community, and want a better system with more materials and better programming," says Park. "And with additional resources comes the kind of sustainability and stability that we haven't had in several years."

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