A bill that is being looked at closely in the Kansas House could cause some major changes for the Kansas library services, including the Northeast Kansas Library System.
The Morrill Public Library is part of the NEKLS, said Director Jenny Marr. In 1965, seven regional library systems were established to help provide library services to all citizens of the state through the use of joint planning and financing. The systems originally served public libraries, but over time has expanded to include school, academic and special libraries.
Marr said that House Bill 2719 is very concerning, because if it is passed then the funding for the library systems would decrease, affecting the inter-library loan program of shared sources in addition to jeopardizing the library’s ability to set its own finances. She said the bill targets the Regional Library Systems, which are the foundation of Kansas libraries.
“In addition to direct financial support, they subsidize and maintain our online catalog and interlibrary loan system,” she said. “Without them, each individual library would have to purchase and run these on their own. Before we had the state-wide courier system, each library had to send every item through the mail, which becomes prohibitively expensive. By pooling our resources, even small libraries can participate, which allows us to share our collections.”
Marr said the Regional Library Systems heavily subsidize this, making it affordable and helping maintain the online catalog since most libraries don’t have an IT person on staff.
Marr said that in 2015, library patrons borrowed 7,601 items and the library in turned loaned out 7,064 items to other libraries. If the bill passes, then she said most smaller libraries would have to drop out of the service or instead of being free, there could be a fee associated with borrowing the books from within the NEKLS.
In addition, through the Regional Library System, the Morrill Public Library receives funds to help with operation expenses. In 2016, the library’s received $22,835 from the Regional Library System for its operating budget.
“To not receive that funding could be a game-changer for what the library is able to offer in terms of materials, programming and services,” Marr said.
The bill was being heard by the House Committee on Taxation Monday afternoon. The committee adjourned without taking any action, but more than 100 librarians went to the hearing to oppose the bill.
She said it was revealed the only proponent for the bill was lobbyist Alan Cobb from Americans For Prosperity. She said the Taxation Committee wants to further review the bill, which they discovered had “unintended consequences.”
Marr is encouraging library patrons to contact their representatives to ask them to oppose the bill: Rep. Randy Garber (R-Dist. 62): email@example.com; https://www.facebook.com/RepRandyGarber and Rep. Marvin Kleeb (R-Dist 48) Chair-House Committee on Taxation; firstname.lastname@example.org; https://www.facebook.com/marvin.kleeb.3