Overdue at the libraries, state pays portion of what it owes

Good news, but 'it's just not enough' for cash-strapped systems

Friday, October 22, 2010

A statewide service through which libraries share books and other resources soon will receive an infusion of state cash, but library officials say the long-term outlook for the service is bleak if more money doesn't arrive from Springfield.

After a two-day pre-election e-mail campaign by patrons and library officials urging Gov. Pat Quinn to release funds, state officials announced Thursday that six of the nine units that make up the Illinois Library Systems will receive a portion of state money due to them.

Patrick McGuckin, a spokesman with the Illinois State Library, said the state should release the checks this week.
The nine systems, which library patrons long have relied on when they can't find something at their hometown library, serve different regions of Illinois.

The systems had not received 47 percent of their state funding and were waiting for approximately $6.5 million for fiscal year 2010, according to Tom Sloan, executive director of the DuPage Library System. The money announced Thursday amounts to about $1.1 million.

In the Chicago area and northern Illinois, the state is providing money to the Metropolitan Library System, which serves portions of Cook, DuPage and Will counties; the North Suburban Library System; and the Prairie Area Library System, which includes parts of Will County. Three downstate systems will also receive funds.

The three systems that did not receive funds are more financially secure than the others at the moment, said McGuckin.

But Su Bochenski, executive director at the Metropolitan Library System, said while the money is encouraging, it won't be enough.

"We had been expecting our full payment of over $1 million," said Bochenski, whose system is getting about $280,000. "It's just not enough."

The North Suburban Library System has laid off 20 full- and part-time employees. The system may have enough funds to last them until March 2011, according to a library official.
Bochenski said the five local systems are moving forward with a plan to merge.

Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said the e-mail campaign probably helped.
"If they didn't write those e-mails and letters, we may not have been able to get funding to them as quickly as possible," Kraft said.