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Local push for state library funding made in Annapolis

February 21, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County Free Library Director Mary Baykan was in Annapolis on Tuesday to lobby lawmakers for more state library money.

Baykan was among those speaking in favor of a bill to boost state library funding about 35 percent by fiscal year 2012.

Alfred E. Martin, Hagerstown's finance director, also testified at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

The State Library Resource Center gets $1.85 per Maryland resident per year. A bill sponsored by Del. Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery, the committee's chairwoman, proposes gradually increasing that amount to $2.50 by 2012.

With Maryland's population at about 5.6 million people, Hixson's proposal would raise funding to about $14.1 million in 2012, instead of $10.4 million, the bill's fiscal note says.

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Baykan testified that the state raised funding for county library systems and three regional libraries in 2005, but the State Library Resource Center, based at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, wasn't included.

In an interview before the hearing, Baykan said the State Library Resource Center connects local libraries.

She said the system includes SAILOR, a statewide public information network; the AskUsNow! 24-hour live online reference service; and interlibrary loan.

It also provides Internet service and broadband connectivity, she said.

Martin told the committee that the Hagerstown and Washington County governments and the school board share the network, saving money.

He called the library "a core business" downtown, important to the city's economic vitality.

"I think these resources that we have are so critical, we can't afford to cut back," Martin said.

Officials from other library systems also testified.

Washington County library advocates have a local supporter on the Ways and Means Committee in Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, a cosponsor of the bill.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, is another cosponsor.

Some library officials broke away from a long day of Ways and Means Committee hearings to monitor a funding discussion in a Senate Budget and Taxation subcommittee.

Baykan said the Department of Legislative Services has recommended cutting a newly established $5 million annual library grant program in half.

Seventeen library systems, including Washington County's, already have applied for at least $7.5 million from the program, Baykan said.

On the Web: http://mlis.state.md.us/2007rs/billfile/hb0226.htm

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