On Saturday, a proposition will be on the ballot asking voters to increase the amount of taxpayer funding the library receives. If the proposition passes, the library will receive the dedicated stable funding that it needs to provide uninterrupted and increased library service hours, programs, collections and technology. Currently, out of 14 libraries, none is open seven days a week and 11 are closed on Fridays. If the proposition passes, the library will use the additional funding to increase hours of operation by 30 percent at all locations and open six libraries seven days a week, as well as open the last remaining Hurricane Katrina-damaged library, the Nora Navra Library in the 7th Ward.
The New Orleans Public Library is the only information, education and entertainment resource in New Orleans that offers free access to absolutely everyone. In 2014, over 1.1 million people visited the 14 libraries, over 52,000 people attended 3,108 library programs and over 373,00 people used library computers. Visits, program attendance and computer usage have all steadily increased from previous years; people are utilizing the New Orleans Public Library now more than ever. And if the proposition passes, the library can stay open longer and be open more days a week, providing that many more opportunities for people to access all that the library has to offer. If the proposition does not pass, the library will be forced to decrease hours of operation by up to 35 percent or close seven of 14 libraries, and significantly decrease collection, program and technology funding, or some combination of all of those.
The New Orleans Public Library is the lowest-funded library system per capita in both the eight-parish metro area and in the 10 Louisiana cities with populations of more than 100,000. The New Orleans Public Library receives $24.54 per capita in support while the Jefferson Parish Library receives $49.49 per capita support and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library receives $84.19 per capita support. The average home value in New Orleans is $300,000, and if the proposition passes, the average homeowner would pay an additional $4.57 per month.
The library is a positive, encouraging and safe space that provides New Orleanians with opportunities to grow, learn and improve their lives. Please take the opportunity to learn more about the May 2 library proposition by visiting a library and speaking to a librarian or online at nolalibrary.org.
executive director, New Orleans Parish Library