Hoping for a happy ending despite tough budget times, about 150 people rallied in front of the State House today against further cuts in state funding for libraries.
The demonstrators chanted, "Fund our libraries!" and held green signs from the Massachusetts Library Association that read, "Don't close the book on libraries." Other handwritten signs said, "Restore regional library funds."
"This is a beautiful spring day. But in Library Land, it is the winter of our discontent," Jeffrey B. Rudman, chairman of the board of the Boston Public Library, told the crowd.
The annual rally fell by coincidence on the same day that the trustees of the cash-strapped Boston library system are planning to meet to discuss how they will decide which neighborhood branches to close as part of a sweeping consolidation plan. One factor contributing to the Boston library's problems has been a steep decline in state assistance.
With state revenues hammered by the stumbling economy, Governor Deval Patrick has proposed $21.14 million for state library programs in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That's down from from about $25 million approved for fiscal 2010 and $34.1 million in fiscal 2009. At the same time, library supporters say demand for products and services has risen in each of the past 10 years. The House and Senate have yet to unveil their budget proposals.
State Senator Steven Tolman of Brighton gave a fiery speech at the rally in defense of libraries. "They are sacred. We need to protect them," he said.
Other speakers included high school students and a representative of the Perkins School for the Blind.
Among the crowd was Ariana Ruiz, a 16-month-old who sat in her stroller, which was affixed with a sign that said, "Please don't close my library." The sign included a heart-shaped picture of the Jamaica Plain branch, one of those that people are fearful will be closed as part of Boston's consolidation plan.
Ruiz goes to the branch at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday for storytime, said her nanny, Robin Druyetis, 25.
"If we didn't have the library, what would we do on rainy days?" Druyetis said.
Material from State House News Service was used in this report.
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