Library Funding. ERIC Digest.
by Bremer, Tracey L.
Library funds are accumulated from a mixture of local, state, federal,
and other sources. According to the National Center for Education Statistics
(1997), 77.6% of public library income is acquired from local funds, 12.1%
from state funds, and 0.9% from federal funds.
The remaining funds (over 9%) come from other sources, including user
fees, special events, and private fundraising efforts involving foundations,
corporations, individual philanthropists, and "Friends of the Library"
groups. A closer look at each source will target current issues and anticipated
trends in library funding.
Local Taxes: Public libraries today acquire the bulk of their funding
from local property taxes. As a result, the local economy plays a major
role in their budgetary success or failure. Library budgets began suffering
major setbacks during the 1970s, but rebounded during the 1980s and early
1990s. Currently, however, communities often fail to pass local tax levies
State Funds: State funding commonly addresses specific efforts such
as long range planning, resource sharing, and state-wide cooperative information
systems. It is particularly useful when regional solutions are needed for
multi-jurisdictional activities. Libraries may also qualify for state funds
in support of other programs, such as those in the arts (Prentice, 1996).
Federal Funds: In 1956, Congress passed the Library Services Act, providing
funds for the provision of library services to unserved areas, primarily
rural communities. A 1964 amendment established the Library Services and
Construction Act (LSCA) to extend monetary aid to all areas with inadequate
library services, including urban areas. In 1996, the Library Services
and Technology Act (LSTA) replaced the expiring LSCA. It focused federal
funding efforts on information access through technology and information
empowerment through special services, providing federal funds to state
library agencies according to population. At that time, federal administration
of the program was shifted from the Department of Education to the Institute
of Museum and Library Services (Reitz, 2001).
Other Sources: It has become increasingly necessary for libraries to
seek alternative sources of revenue to support activities that were once
thought to be the responsibility of tax dollars. Causes of this trend include
the rapid growth of information, increased costs for services and materials,
and demands for additional services. Many librarians today feel pressed
to spend more time and energy making contacts and writing grant proposals
in order to raise needed funds (Burlingame, 1995).
In addition, user fees have become more common as patrons demand such
services as online database searches and other expensive means of access
to information (Prentice, 1996). Special events such as book sales also
play a small role in filling funding gaps.
Although funding woes are not unique to demands for technology, libraries
of all types share the need to finance the escalating costs of technology,
particularly those associated with the Internet. These costs include access,
hardware, upgrades/maintenance, staffing, software, and web design/management.
Recent large-scale technology funding efforts include the federal E-rate
program and the private Gates Library Foundation. The E-rate program, which
provides discounted telecommunication rates to libraries and schools, has
helped offset access costs for many libraries. The Gates Library Foundation
is giving $400 million in cash, software, and training to wire every public
library in the nation to the Internet by the year 2002 (St. Lifer, 1999).
However, if libraries are to meet the increasing demands of a technologically
savvy clientele while maintaining quality collections, they must actively
seek alternative funding for high-tech services that are now considered
commonplace by the populations they serve (Kemmis, 1998).
PRIVATE FUNDRAISING & GRANTSMANSHIP
Private grant makers usually avoid donating money for ongoing operating
expenses (Ezzell, 1995). Instead, "...the new and innovative, the special
and extra service, and that which makes for excellence comprise the most
appropriate purposes of soliciting private support" (Burlingame, 1995,
p. vii). Once a suitable project has been proposed, it is time to proceed
with the nuts and bolts of the fundraising effort.
Sumerford (1995) suggests twelve steps for successfully acquiring funds
from private sources:
1. State the need for funding from the community's perspective
2. Investigate the community's current fundraising climate
3. Establish a fundraising advisory committee
4. Develop a comprehensive, community-based strategy based on diverse
5. Arrange for all money to go into a tax-deductible fund
6. Frame the request in a project format, matching outcomes with the
potential donor's priorities
7. Research foundations to determine which align with the project's
8. Research the giving patterns of local corporations
9. Ask individuals for donations and pledges, personally and via mailings
10. Organize special events and generate press releases
11. Collaborate with other organizations
12. Keep in touch with donors, including those who declined the request
The proposal itself should also contain a detailed description of the
project, including qualifications of the organization requesting funds,
a timeline, budget, and information on staffing and program evaluation.
Finally, the proposal should be carefully edited for clarity and completeness
In closing, effective relationships and proper motivation are critical
to any successful fundraising effort. William R. Gordon sets forth the
following five points that he believes critical to receiving financial
and/or community support: 1) understand the time commitment, 2) keep promises,
3) make customer service a top priority, 4) be sure the staff and the library
board commit to the effort, and 5) always be prepared for community members
who oppose the effort or believe they have a better plan of approach (Harrison,
Above all, it is important to remember that "donors want to support
projects that will empower citizens and result in long-term improvements
in the community" (Sumerford, 1995). Fundraising should be approached from
a problem-solving standpoint, giving grant makers the opportunity to support
meaningful programs with the potential to change peoples' lives.
REFERENCES & SUGGESTED READING
Burlingame, D. F. (Ed.). (1995). "Library fundraising: Models for success."
Chicago, IL: American Library Association. (ED 389 328)
Cantarella, G. M. (Ed.). (1999). "National guide to funding for libraries
and information services (5th ed.)." New York, NY: Foundation Center. (ED
Ezzell, J. (1995). A Twelve-step program for stronger grant proposals.
"North Carolina Libraries," 53(1), 6-7. (EJ 503 441)
Harrison, M. M. (1997). A Five-point plan for local support and funding
for libraries [Interview with William R. Gordon]. "Library Administration
& Management," 11(1), 4-8. (EJ 537 947)
Kemmis, B. (1998). Changing trends in library fund raising. "Library
Administration & Management," 12(4), 195-199. (EJ 584 204)
"Library Fund Raising: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. LARC (Library
and Research Center) Fact Sheet Number 24." (December 1999). Washington,
DC: American Library Association. Retrieved February 28, 2001, from the
World Wide Web: http://www.ala.org/library/fact24.html
Prentice, A. E. (1995). "Financial planning for libraries." (2nd ed.,
Library administration series, No. 8). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ED
"Public Libraries in the United States: 1997." Table 11A. (June 2000).
National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved February 28, 2001,
from the World Wide Web: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000316.pdf
Reitz, Joan M. (2001, January 22). "ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library
and Information Science." Retrieved February 28, 2001, from the World Wide
St. Lifer, E. (1999). Libraries succeed at funding books and bytes.
"Library Journal," 124(1), 50-52. (EJ 584 181)
Sumerford, S. (1995). Careful planning: The Fundraising edge. "North
Carolina Libraries," 53(1), 3-5. (EJ 503 441)
Taft Group. (1998). "The Big book of library grant money." Chicago,
IL: American Library Association.