The Capital-Journal Editorial Board
January 23, 2017

The Kansas State Library’s origins can be traced to 1855, when the Kansas Territorial Library first received funding. Eight years later, the Legislature appropriated $2,000 to establish the Kansas State Library, which was originally located in the east wing of the Capitol. The renovated two-story library is now housed on the third floor of the north wing (where it has been since 1900), and it’s open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round.

Since the Rev. Dr. David Dickinson was appointed as the first state librarian in 1870, he has had 15 successors (which means librarians serve an average of more than nine years). State Librarian Jo Budler took the job in 2010, and her negotiations to control the exploding administrative costs of ebook access earned her Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year award in 2013. Budler has since worked with libraries across the state to ensure that they have the resources they need, such as databases, ebooks and other research materials.

According to Budler, “The thing I love about my job here is you can look at what’s coming out in the library field and know the smallest libraries are not going to be able to afford this service.” She says it’s important to figure out what the State Library can do to address this problem: “How can we make it available statewide so that residents of the state, no matter where they live, have the best library service?” Considering the number of small, rural libraries in Kansas, our interlibrary loan system (which is paid for with federal funds) is essential for providing everyone in the state with the “best library service.”

Budler explains how the system works: “We have databases that we purchase. About $1 million in cost. If the libraries across the state purchased it one at a time, it would be $53 million. That’s not a cost savings. That is a cost avoidance. Because there is no way we could afford that.” This diffusion of cost is even more critical at a time when state aid to libraries has suffered a substantial decline in Kansas. According to a 2015 report issued by the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, funding was reduced by 60 percent (when adjusted for inflation) between 2008 and 2014. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, funding dropped by 23 percent.

Kansas Library Association president Terri Summey said the funding reductions were having a harmful impact on basic services: “There’s not a lot more we can cut and still provide the resources and services that kids need and adults need, that the community needs.” Even though state funding has been disappointing over the past decade, it’s encouraging that dedicated librarians like Budler are working hard to control costs and give everyone in our state access to the resources that only a good library can offer.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal here.

Lisa OwenTOPEKA CAPITAL JOURNAL: All Kansans deserves access to library resources