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Library Funding Is Key for Access
Source: Timesunion.com, http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Library-funding-is-key-for-access-2216136.php
Source Date: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: United States
Created: Oct 13, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently launched http://www.CitizenConnects.com to improve state government's transparency through online forums and Internet-based town hall-style meetings. This initiative also is designed to create a new avenue for citizen engagement through e-government.

Of course, participation becomes a challenge if you can't afford Internet access at home. With a rising number of New York households living in poverty, it seems clear that many citizens cannot.

Fortunately, local public libraries provide an opportunity for all New Yorkers to participate. Public libraries have a long, successful history of bridging socioeconomic and digital divides. They stand poised to assist the governor in his efforts to bring government to the people through their established service of free Internet access.

Unfortunately, libraries and library systems are eliminating hours and staff as a result of repeated cuts to state aid and the negative impact of the tax cap on local municipal funding for libraries. The governor's proposed budget for this year included a further 10 percent cut, which would have taken libraries back to 1991 funding levels. Through state Senate efforts, this cut was reduced to 6 percent, but still had a significant negative impact.

State aid to libraries totals less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget. Engaging citizens in e-government is a worthwhile endeavor. But all citizens need access to this avenue of participation.

By restoring funding to public libraries, Cuomo and the Legislature can make an investment in democracy for all of New York's citizens. And isn't that what participatory democracy is truly all about?

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