As state senators consider reforming Pennsylvania's Library Code, librarians say the biggest issue is their unreliable funding. Librarians and advocates say that what they'd like to see is a library system managed by the counties. Right now, most libraries get their funding from the state's thousands of municipalities, and not all are guaranteed a share of tax revenues.
Dennis Leeper, with the Pennsylvania Citizens for Better Libraries group, said most libraries find themselves competing with other city services for budgetary support trying to make their case alongside police and fire departments, as well as transportation projects. "So the libraries often get what's left over," Leeper said. "And in difficult economic times like these, there isn't much left over. So the libraries are left hurting."
In Allegheny County, libraries are eligible for a share of the revenues generated by the additional 1% sales tax.
Kate Geiger, who runs the Indiana Free Library in Indiana County, said having to ask for money from nearby municipalities is an "annual roller coaster." She said more affluent populations and more metropolitan areas might have less need for public computers and fast internet connections, but libraries are still major resources in Indiana County. "Many people in outlying areas may or may not have access to the internet, and their download speeds are dial-up," Geiger said. "We have lots of people who come in to the library because they don't have access elsewhere."
A Senate education panel is considering reforms to the laws governing the state's libraries. The code hasn't been overhauled in 50 years.