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Meeting doesn't ease librarians' angst over state budget woes
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. talks about the state's financial woes Monday during the North Suburban Library System meeting at the Arboretum Club in Buffalo Grove.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

State Rep. Suzanne "Suzie" Bassi sits at a table with members of the Palatine Library District as legislators meet with librarians during the North Suburban Library System meeting at the Arboretum Club Monday in Buffalo Grove.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Kip Kolkmeier, a lobbyist for the Illinois Library Association, talks about the industry's financial problems Monday in Buffalo Grove.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/15/2010 1:11 PM | Updated: 2/15/2010 3:27 PM

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The suburban librarians who gathered Monday morning to talk with state lawmakers about the funding challenges they face didn't walk away from the session with any good news.

At the North Suburban Library System's annual legislative breakfast in Buffalo Grove, legislator after legislator said times are going to get worse for state-funded regional library programs and local libraries.

"More cuts are coming," state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, told the crowd at the Arboretum Club. "It's going to be ugly. It's going to be uglier than it has been."

Regional cooperative library organizations such as the North Suburban Library System already have slashed budgets and cut staffs because millions of dollars in promised state grants haven't been delivered. Ten regional systems operate across the state.

If the money doesn't come soon, representatives say, more cuts will be needed. The organizations could even shut down, officials said, which would affect services at local libraries.

"Our library systems are being starved to death," Cynthia Fuerst, director of the Vernon Area Public Library District in Lincolnshire, told the audience Monday.

None of the lawmakers in attendance had anything significantly optimistic to say about the matter.

State Rep. Mark Walker of Arlington Heights said the legislature's funding priorities are medical care, senior citizens services and education. All other services are secondary, he said.

"You're high on my priority list, but those are the realities," said Walker, a Democrat.

State Rep. Sid Mathias' outlook was even drearier. When talking about a proposed income-tax increase some believe could help raise the money the state needs to operate, Mathias said libraries wouldn't benefit from the boost.

"Even if we pass an income tax increase tomorrow, what makes you think you're going to get any of that money?" the Buffalo Grove Republican said.

State Rep. Eddie Washington, a Waukegan Democrat, proposed two novel fundraising ideas: a scratch-off lottery game and special license places that would support libraries.