Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
News : Recent Press Releases     Op-Ed     Publications     About the Legislative Press Bureau Printer Friendly View
1/29/2024 In response to Gov. McKee’s budget, Rep. Morales introduces legislation to fully fund state’s libraries
STATE HOUSE – Rep. David Morales has introduced legislation (2024-H 7335) requiring the state fulfill its financial obligations to public libraries statewide for FY2025.

“To my surprise, the governor did not prioritize fully funding our public libraries in his budget proposal, so in response, I’ve introduced legislation to ensure that all our libraries receive the funding that they need and deserve,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence). “Day in and day out, public libraries provide critical services at no cost to our neighbors, such as after school programs, early literacy programs, notary services, internet access and, of course, the gift of literature through books. Therefore, it is in all of our interests to ensure that our libraries are well-funded and have the resources needed to remain strong and vibrant in the years ahead.”

Existing state law specifies that the state contribute to each city and town in an amount equal to 25% of municipal expenditures and 25% of any expenditures from a library’s private endowment that supplements that expenditure. Until 2022, that requirement had been ignored for over a decade. An advocacy campaign led by Representative Morales and library supporters across the state helped ensure that the final budget for FY2023 included the required 25% funding. Governor Dan McKee’s FY2024 budget also included 25% funding for libraries, and the General Assembly went on to fully fund public libraries for the second consecutive year.

The governor’s proposed FY2025 budget level-funds the state’s contributions to libraries through the next five years, meaning the state’s contribution would stay flat each year despite rising operating costs for libraries. In the first year this shortfall would be $380,114, with Providence seeing the largest cut, losing a total of $73,000 between its two library systems, the Providence Public Library and the Community Libraries of Providence.

 “Full funding from the state, like we had the last two years, gives us the solid foundation we need to pursue outside grants and expand our offerings into the community,” said Ed Garcia, library director at the Cranston Public Library. “In the last year we added early literacy programs in the mornings and evenings, shrank the waiting list for our ESL programs by expanding offerings and launched pop-up library services in underserved areas in our community. State funding didn’t pay for these programs directly, but knowing that our basic functions would be funded allowed us to launch them with confidence.”

These cuts to state funding come at a time when Rhode Island’s libraries are seeing more visitors and higher demand.

“Across the Community Libraries of Providence, we had an increase of about 120,000 visitors last year,” said Cheryl Space, library director of the Community Libraries of Providence. “Our community is asking for and responding to new events and these last two years we have met that demand, bringing in about 56,000 visitors to our 5,000 special events and programs just last year.”

Advocates also point to libraries as efficient stewards of public funds.

“Our network would lose about $32,000 in state funding with the current budget proposal,” said Space. “To give a sense of the impact, that’s about 40% of our book budget, a full-time clerical position or the annual cost of our free GED in Spanish classes that have helped more than 1,000 Rhode Islanders achieve their high school credential.”

Said Garcia, “Cranston is facing a $22,000 shortfall, which is the equivalent of 80% of our Sunday hours or two-thirds of our technology budget. Libraries make a dollar go a long way.”

For more information, contact:
Tristan Grau, Publicist
State House Room B20
Providence, RI 02903