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funding options. In addition to GSS and its consultant staff, identified below, these sessions were attended by Ms. Kathleen Molz, former Chief, Planning Staff, Bureau of Libraries and Learning Resources, Mr. Dick Hays, Acting Chief, Division of Library Programs, and Mr. Charles Stevens, Executive Director of the National Commission. The last of these sessions, held in February 1974, included members of the NCLIS Committee with oversight over this study project. This group included: Mr. Louis Lerner, Chairman, Ms. Bessie Moore and Mr. John Velde. GSS expresses its gratitude for the participation of these individuals in meetings which were most productive in carrying forward the study process. Responsibility for findings, conclusions and recommendations in the report, of course, remain with GSS.

Members of the study team included an outstanding group of experts covering library services development and operations, economics, management, and intergovernmental fiscal affairs. Dr. Lowell A. Martin, Professor of Library Science, Columbia University and Mr. Keith Doms, Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, represented the library field. Dr. Martin prepared the basic draft of Section II of the report dealing with the public library role issue. Dr. Morris Hamburg, Professor of Statistics and Operations Research, University of Pennsylvania, dealt with the examination and application of the public goods theory. Mr. Jacob Jaffe, Senior Analyst, (Retd), Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, performed the fiscal analysis and drafted Section III of the report. Dr. Ronald Whitfield, Assistant Professor of Management, Bucknell University, assisted in the research activities and in the preparation of working papers.

Government Studies & Systems staff assigned to this project included Charles P. Cella, Director, GSS, Arnold R. Post, Charles I. Goldman, John Q. Benford and Sharon M. White. Rodney P. Lane served as Project Director.

Government Studies & Systems

April 1974


The central conclusion of this analysis of funding patterns and general assessment of financing requirements for adequately supporting the public library is that the present system is basically deficient. In almost two decades of operation since the direct involvement of the Federal government, the present system has not produced an effective development and distribution of public library services. The distribution of costs among the levels and jurisdictions of government is inequitable and is a prime deterrent to the progressive development of a public library system responsive to the informational-educationalcultural needs of a modern society.

The State of the Institution

Historically, the public library represented a private response to the clearly felt need to provide a central repository of information and knowledge vital to the self-development and economic and cultural understanding of all citizens and, through them, the advancement of the community.

The public library today represents an under-developed national resource affecting and affected by the educational, cultural and overall quality of life in the United States. This resource plays a unique role in this democratic society. It provides informational, educational, and cultural services in patterns which vary according to estimates of need, sometimes imperfectly perceived by the library institution itself. More importantly, services vary widely according to the fiscal ability of state, county, and local jurisdictions to provide library services equitably to all the nation's citizens.

Uniquely, and for a variety of reasons, the public library has not emerged or developed in a political or bureaucratic form typical of other social institutions. It exists today largely in its pristine state as an almost randomly distributed pattern of semi-independent local service agencies and systems, only loosely coordinated with other libraries. As a social institution, it is related by tradition and function to the public education system. Yet, it cannot be considered an integral part of public education, nor can it be described as a functional service in the


mainstream of government. This set of characteristics represents a heavy liability for public libraries in terms of attaining stable, adequate financial support for a full set of services available to all citizens. The institution's deep roots in the community and its strong civic support represent the public library's principal asset, at least potentially, in striving to develop a viable pattern of services responsive to the full variety of community and individual needs.

Today, in our highly complex, industrialized and fragmented society, the need for decentralized repositories of information, knowledge and cultural services still exists and perhaps is even intensified. There are still wide socio-economic and cultural gaps in our social structure and quite alienated groups producing needs which have long been the focus of public library services. In an era of affluence, there is still the need to provide an ever wider variety of channels of upward social and economic mobility responsive to community and individual needs and selection. There is increasing evidence that our formalized, bureaucratic structures for social, educational and economic advancement have not served adequately or equally well the varied needs of all citizens. Indeed, decentralized, less formally organized social and educational resources such as public libraries are being increasingly seen as valid adjuncts and alternatives to formally structured, governmentally sponsored educational programs.

This is not to say that we should replicate or simply expand the traditional patterns of public library services. Proximity of service to each community and individual remains important, but there are essential changes to be achieved through expanded inter-connecting linkages and networks of library services. These advances are needed to increase service efficiency and more nearly to satisfy cost-benefit requirements of the public sector. Modern technology provides vast new means to establish such network linkages and provide the means by which information and knowledge from the accumulated record can be translated for individual utilization. It is unlikely, however, that modern technology can ever replace the printed page or the highly personalized interactive process of consulting the written record. Nonetheless, the style and pace of modern life in an information demanding society requires more than the passive, unobtrusive pattern of public library services that exist today in many communities. Changes such as these, and more, should be incorporated in modern public library services. But, the essential features and functions of providing specialized research, information, and education-cultural services remain at least as much needed as ever in the history of the public library.


Alternative Options for
Funding the Public Library

One of the problems in formulating a set of alternative options for funding the public library is the difficulty of estimating the total national cost of a viable pattern of public library services. In this report, some effort has been made to assess fiscally and comparatively the status and level of services which now exists. In general terms, the report has been bluntly critical of the distribution, scope, pattern and content of existing services. It has been noted that total expenditures by states and localities for public library services (including Federal funds) was $814 million in 1971-72.

An effort has been made to characterize and describe the potential role and functions of the public library in meeting the defined needs of a modern society. The points have been made with emphasis that the present system of funding the public library is basically deficient, and that the institution is an underdeveloped national resource. In its present form and at its present level of expenditure, it has not achieved anything like its full potential of service in most communities.

Based on the $814 million national expenditure noted above, the per capita rate of expenditures in 1971-72 was approximately $4.00. An exemplary program, such as found in Nassau County, New York, cost just under $12.00 per capita in the same year. Current calculations for Nassau County indicate a present cost level of almost $14.00 per capita. It is, of course, impossible to replicate instantly and nationwide the type of library facilities and service coverage found in Nassau County. But, it is within the realm of the possible to propose a national per capita cost range of $8.00-$10.00 as the planning base for an adequate national program of public library services. Total national expenditures might then approximate a range of between $1.7 billion and $2.1 billion, based on 1974 population estimates. This would seem to be a more realistic national expenditure figure on which to formulate a set of alternative options for funding the public library. Start-up and other capital costs required to establish new or expanded facilities are in addition to these figures.

There is a series of five options that can be considered in developing alternative systems for financing public library services. They can be identified as: (1) status quo, no change from the present system, (2) a retrenchment of the Federal government financing role, (3) direct Federal funding at a 75-90 percent of total cost level, (4) expanded state funding role to the 75-90 percent level, and (5) a staged funding program moving toward a balanced intergovernmental funding system. These alternatives are intended as a strategic, rather than an exhaustive grouping of possible options. A brief outline of the salient features of each follows:

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Alternative Funding Options 1. Status quo

(a) zero funding of LSCA; complete reliance on revenue sharing

(b) continuation of LSCA at current or reduced levels 2. Retrenchment of the Federal governmental financing role (a) no Federal funds for public libraries and no Federal policy

with respect to public library development (b) variable pattern of state and local support depending upon

interest and fiscal capacity (c) heavier reliance upon fees, fines and organized voluntary

3. Federalized system of libraries: 75–90 % level

(a) direct Federal funding according to Federal standards
(b) strategic and directed distribution of public library services to

achieve uniform coverage
(c) coordinated funding and functional planning of public librar-

ies with other library funding programs under ESEA Title II

and the Higher Education Act (d) full development and employment of technology to maximize

services at lowest cost
(e) authority structure related to Library of Congress
4. Dominant state funding role: 75–90% level

(a) minimal Federal role and funding
(b) limited Federal funding geared to inter-state fiscal disparities
(c) relief of local tax burden for libraries

(d) fuller utilization of untapped state tax resources 5. Balanced intergovernmental funding system-Federal, state and local (a) increased Federal support to meet upgraded library service

and development needs (b) revised LSCA to reflect strengthened Federal role and man

date, coordinated Federal state planning for a national pro

gram of public library services (c) increased state support to reflect prime responsibility for

public library maintenance and development (d) decreased local support role (e) staged approach over ten-year period to achieve improved

balance in intergovernmental funding pattern ending with Federal—20 percent, state-50 percent, and local—30 percent of a progressively elevated national expenditure for improved

and expanded public library services Of the five options examined in the light of the library service maintenance and development requirements assessed in this report, clearly, the proposed balanced and strengthened intergovernmental system provides the most viable option.

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