MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – A battle over books is heading to the Statehouse in Montpelier. A pair of bills seek to press pause on closing libraries within the Vermont State University.
A plan to reduce the size of libraries is now facing opposition at the Statehouse.
State college leadership this winter proposed closing several libraries and moving their catalog online. The move is expected to save the cash-strapped system some $500,000.
A pair of bills introduced this year would put the brakes on the plan.
“While on one hand, they are an independent group that makes their own decisions, I introduced this bill to show that a substantial amount of people don’t think this is the best way to do it,” said Senator Brian Collamore, R-Rutland County.
The proposals would prevent the state colleges from closing or reducing the size of the state colleges’ libraries or laying off staff without legislative approval.
Two years ago, Vermont lawmakers gave the colleges tens of millions of dollars with a mandate they chip away at their $25 million deficit, cutting $5 million a year.
“We need the flexibility from lawmakers in order to do that difficult work. It’s tremendously difficult to trim $5 million five years in a row. It’s going to take a lot of partnership and teamwork to get there,” said Katherine Levasseur, the Vermont State College External and Governmental Affairs director.
Legislative leaders say the process lawmakers approved two years ago needs to play out.
“I don’t think this legislation really reflects that situation. We’re trying to work hard and do our part as a board,” said Representative Eileen Dickinson, R-St. Albans, who serves on the Appropriations Committee and the VSC board of trustees. “We would love to have more money from the state but we are realistic as to what the state can do.”
This summer, the state colleges are rebranding and rolling out new scholarships to grow enrollment.
The plan to reduce the size of the libraries has faced swift opposition from students, alumni, faculty, parents and some lawmakers.
Collamore, the bill’s sponsor, says the colleges and lawmakers should seek savings elsewhere.
“Everything’s on the table right now in terms of finding additional funding to make up for that $500,000 loss so they won’t have to close the libraries and lay people off,” Collamore said.
The Senate bill did not make crossover, but with half of the Vermont Senate sponsoring the bill, Collamore hopes it can be tacked onto other legislation later in the year.
A companion bill in the House is expected to be introduced in the coming days.
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As reported by WCAX
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Author: Amnon Jakony |
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