So, 14 months ago, this happened (as reported by Library Journal):

The new state biennial budget (FY 2012-13) in Texas, signed Tuesday by Governor Rick Perry, will reduce state funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by 64 percent and will cut state funding for the agency’s library programs by 88 percent.

According to figures provided by the state library, the overall state library budget will shrink from $19.8 million each year of the two-year budget to $7.2 million. Funding for the state agency’s library programs will go from $12.8 million to $1.6 million. The Library Development and Library Resource Sharing divisions will be merged into a single division,

Jerilynn Williams, the president of the Texas Library Association and the director at Montogomery County Library, said the situation was dire.

“Everybody is just shaking their heads because this is more drastic than any measures we’ve seen in the past, and I’ve been around Texas libraries for more than 40 years. This is the worst Texas has ever seen,” she said.

“We are still reeling because programs that have been in place for decades, as well as the direct aid to libraries program will be no more when this budget goes into effect,” she said.

All funding for the Loan Star Libraries program has been eliminated. This program provides direct aid grants to public libraries throughout the state. The program received $13.4 million for FY10-11.

Because of Congressional action, the agency will receive $10.6 million in federal Library Services and Technology Act funding for FY12, $900,000 less than in FY11. “We expect further reduction in federal funds in subsequent years because we will not meet our federal maintenance of effort requirements,” Rudd wrote in her memo.

LSTA is the sole funding source for the state’s regional library systems and interlibrary loan (ILL). The regional systems will receive $2.5 million in FY12, down from $4.2 million, but “the future beyond FY12 is uncertain,” Rudd wrote.

In a statement on his website, Perry said the budget will help the state’s economy.

“… We followed the directions laid out by voters last November, and balanced our budget by prioritizing and reducing spending without raising taxes. I’m proud of Texas lawmakers’ hard work to accomplish this goal, which positions Texas for continued job growth and ongoing prosperity for Texas families in the years to come.”

Last Wednesday morning, less than an hour after submitting three Interlibrary Loan requests for research materials for a manuscript due next month, I received the following email:

APL Interlibrary Loan Service Change Oct 1, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:22 AM
From: “AustinPublicLibrary-Interlibrary Loan”
To: “Chris Barton”

Dear Interlibrary Loan customers,

I am sharing with you the Austin Public Library’s (APL) plans for continuing interlibrary loan services. Beginning Monday, October 1, the Austin Public Library will be offering only one active InterLibrary Loan (ILL) transaction, including requests and check-outs, to customers.

The State grant funding for the Austin Public Library’s Interlibrary Loan service was drastically reduced in 2011. As a result, APL limited ILL services to books only and 5 items per library card. Since that time APL has been providing ILL service with no staff and no budget. We can no longer maintain this service at the current level.

Beginning October 1, 2012 the Austin Public Library will limit ILL requests to 1 active request per customer (reduction from the current 5). Requests are still limited to books only and there is no renewal. The Library hopes this reduces the cost and workload enough to make it sustainable. Offering only one active loan per customer means that a researcher can still request a critical resource that is not available in any other way.


Interlibrary Loan
Austin Public Library

One item, in hand or requested, at a time. I just don’t see myself getting those materials before my book is due. I do, however, appreciate the staff at the Austin Public Library for doing what they can to keep Interlibrary Loan going even in this skeletal form.

Coincidentally, lately I’ve been reading Christopher Hayes’ fascinating new book, Twilight of the Elites. In it, Hayes explains the role played by “social distance” — the degree to which, say, well-off politicians are cut off from and ignorant of the lives and needs of their constituents — in all sorts of national debacles where the poor have suffered from the actions of the powerful. This happens because those in power often can’t even conceive of the effect of their decisions on the members of our society that they never see. Think WMD. Think Katrina. Think the housing bubble.

My situation pales just a little compared to those examples. Still, I’m guessing that state and national legislators don’t do a lot of their own research at their local library, so this does help bring Hayes’ point home.