Pratt needs more state help Shortchanged: Increased aid for public libraries doesn't help city's central branch.

January 29, 1998

THE BUDGET proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening increases per-capita funding of Maryland's public libraries. But it wrongly fails to recognize the special needs of the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library as the State Library Resource Center. The Pratt is scheduled to receive $3.5 million under that designation. The amount hasn't changed since 1992. It was reduced from a $5.1 million allocation in 1991 when the recession led to budget cuts.

Pratt officials say it costs about $10 million a year to run the State Library Resource Center, which provides books and support services to other libraries in Maryland. The lack of state funding means that the Pratt has to take money from elsewhere to supplement the resource center. That's one reason the central branch is closed Fridays and why it can't purchase materials the public has requested.

The governor wants to increase aid for per-capita allocations to public libraries in the state, which will receive nearly a 50 percent increase. But the Pratt will only receive 11.3 percent more. The formula is based on population and wealth; Baltimore's population has dropped, but its per-capita income has not.

The new per-capita formula will give the Pratt an additional $508,000, or a total of $4.49 million, in that state appropriation. The library's general fund budget, including money from the city, totals about $17 million.

It's good to see the governor recognize that public libraries have reduced hours and put off buying books and periodicals since the recession. But he has ignored the plight of the state's most important branch. He must do more to meet the needs of the State Library Resource Center. Supplemental funding for the Pratt is essential to help it better serve all Marylanders.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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