How State Aid Makes a Difference

For Oklahoma’s public libraries, State Aid payments can mean everything from enhancing services to keeping the doors open. Although we don’t know what these difficult state budget times have in store for the future of State Aid, we do know what a difference the program has made over the years.

A bit of history…

Oklahoma’s State Aid efforts have been going on nearly 50 years, and the payments have been leveraged to help raise the level of library services across the state.

In the late 1960’s funds budgeted for State Aid were offered to a limited number of libraries through an application process. By the late 1970s, a larger legislative appropriation and a robust State Aid Rules and Regulations policy allowed payments to all “eligible” libraries, which served to increase the number of public libraries that became “legally-established” as part of their local government. These libraries continue to be motivated to meet service criteria based on the populations they serve.

The use of State Aid funds as an incentive for establishing—and then elevating—basic library services has proven successful time and time again. Over the years, the promise of State Aid funding has encouraged libraries to schedule evening and weekend hours of operation, to hire degreed directors, to establish various policies and strategic plans, and acquire various technologies for use by the public—from fax machines and photocopiers to public access internet.

The Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement has also served as an incentive for municipal governments to maintain local library funding, as they consider annual budgets for their various divisions.

State Aid Flyer for 2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session
Every year, Oklahoma libraries tell us how they use State Aid payments. Here are highlights from last year.

Just as ODL has used State Aid to encourage the development of services, libraries have provided important feedback that has led to adjustments in the State Aid rules and disbursement formulas. When the rise of computer technology necessitated some larger investments by libraries, the formula was adapted to guarantee a minimum State Aid payment to Oklahoma’s smallest libraries to help meet this need. Municipal libraries, seeing the need to provide library services for those living outside of their traditional service areas, agreed to serve the entire population of their counties, leading to another change in the disbursement formula. This, in effect, literally opened the door to fee-free public library services for more than 500,000 Oklahomans.

ODL has recently submitted proposed changes to State Aid Rules and Regulations to the legislature. After evaluating particular recommendations from the field, these drafted changes include an adjustment in weekend hour requirements for small libraries, and optional degree/experience requirements for library directors of certain size libraries.

State Aid is flexible!

Oklahoma’s public libraries rely on flexibility to use State Aid. As one librarian commented in our 2016 survey, “Each year we face needs in different categories. Sometimes it is to purchase new books, to replace computers, to upgrade our automation systems, and other technology needs. Other times to put toward our children’s or summer reading programs, offer educational adult programs, or purchase new furniture. Without State Aid we would be much more limited on what we could offer our communities.”

Pie Chart on Use of State Aid Funds by Local Libraries
Pie Chart: How do Oklahoma’s public libraries use their State Aid payments?

The flexibility helps many Oklahoma public libraries meet pressing needs, such as purchasing books and other materials, paying staff, and funding automation software. Better-funded libraries and library systems use State Aid to bring added value to their services, such as purchasing additional supplies and materials for Summer Reading support, or funding training opportunities for staff. State Aid dollars can be used for anything that is not permanently affixed to the walls (construction or permanent repairs to the library building), and the use of these funds is as diverse as the needs of Oklahoma libraries. (To see all of the feedback from public libraries on their use of FY2016 State Aid, check out this spreadsheet.)

State Aid supports federal library funds

Just as public libraries must meet Maintenance of Effort requirements to keep State Aid, ODL must meet MOE to retain a certain level in federal funding through the Library Services and Technology Act. State Aid is our match for federal funds and part of our MOE. A reduction in State Aid and other efforts that serve Oklahoma public libraries could jeopardize our federal projects.

Those federal dollars fund Digital Prarie‘s EBSCO and Britannica School statewide databases, information sharing services like interlibrary loan, adult literacy services, continuing education for librarians, children’s Summer Reading programs, library consultation services, and other important initiatives. In order to save the LSTA funds, ODL has reduced State Aid only when no other choices could be made. And over the course of the past several years, the agency has had to make some hard choices. As the agency’s budget has plummeted and staffing has been reduced through attrition, many of our services have been adversely affected.

Of course, what happens with State Aid and other ODL services is ultimately up to the legislature and the state’s budget picture. We don’t know what the future may bring, but we do know what a difference State Aid makes to Oklahoma’s public libraries and the people they serve.

State Aid Facts and Figures

  • A little more than $1.7 million dollars is being used for State Aid Payments to public libraries this fiscal year (SFY2017).
  • Only 90% of the funding has been disbursed. The final 10% will be disbursed to the libraries if the state does not suffer another revenue failure during the remainder of the fiscal year.
  • The State Aid Formula for SFY2017 provides $0.3228245 per capita amount to libraries and library systems.
  • In addition, $6.31 per square mileage amount is paid to library systems and municipal libraries. (In counties with more than one municipal library, the mileage amount is divided proportionately among the libraries in the county based on population.)
  • The smallest State Aid payment this year is $2,111 to Salina Public Library. The largest is $247,551 to the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma County.
  • Three public libraries did not qualify for State Aid this year. Two of those libraries will be eligible again next year if the proposed changes to State Aid rules and regulations are approved by the legislature.
  • The annual State Aid Formula is based on the dollars available and the number of qualifying libraries. It is approved each year by the ODL Board of Directors.