Letter from the Director

Photo of Anchorage Public Library Director, Mary Jo Torgeson

Dear Library User,

As a Librarian, there are two things that are vitally important to me:  education and an informed, healthy and vibrant community. Many of you have read about Governor Dunleavy’s proposed vetoes, which jeopardize the very things that make Anchorage a wonderful place to live. I encourage you to take action by July 5 on those issues that are most important to you. Here is a link to the legislative offices: http://w3.akleg.gov/index.php

For background, here’s how we anticipate some of the cuts will impact the Library’s patrons:

EARLY EDUCATION

Alaska is worst in the nation for 4th grade reading scores and 49th in school readiness and early childhood education. Best Beginnings, Head Start and Parents as Teachers – programs that fight this trend – will all be cut with the vetoes at a time when we need even more investment in this area! Study after study demonstrate that investments in early education have ripple effects across the community and decrease societal costs in the long-term.

SCHOOL DISTRICT AND UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA

The best return on investment can be seen in educating our youth.  The combined cuts to the University of Alaska and school districts are too much and will have long lasting impact:

  • 50% cut to the School Bond Debt Reimbursement program ($48 million)
  • Elimination of a one-time $30 million boost for K-12 schools
  • Elimination of the Forward Funding of Education for 2020-2021
  • UA losing $134M on top of legislative cuts

LIVE HOMEWORK HELP AND ONLINE WITH LIBRARIES

OWL: Imagine living without Internet. If the veto stands, public libraries and community/school libraries in 97 communities will see immediate cuts to their internet service speed. In 25 towns the library will immediately and completely shut off all internet access. OWL supports all or part of library internet access for over 90% of Alaskans. The state would also lose all of the federal dollars for this program

Homework help is a live tutor accessible to many students and is often a lifeline helping students succeed.

LAYOFFS AND UNEMPLOYMENT

2,500 staff at the University have already been furloughed and layoffs in government, nonprofit and private sectors are sure to come if the vetoes go through. The Library helps people update their resumes, apply for jobs and prepare for qualifying exams every day, and our weekly Job Labs at Loussac and Mountain View Libraries utilize community volunteers to help patrons through this process. We expect the need for this service to grow as a result of the cuts.

Additionally cuts to the mental health programs, Municipal revenue sharing and public broadcasting will also have major negative impacts to our libraries and the people they serve, putting an even bigger burden on an already strained, under-funded resource.

Your Library will continue to be a first responder during this budget crisis by providing information to help students and job seekers, WIFI and internet use for those without access in the home, and online resources for all.  We continue to welcome everyone and will always be a resource for ALL in our community. 

Mary Jo Torgeson,
Anchorage Public Library Director