photo by Danny Fulgencio

Funding to the Dallas library system would increase $3.5 million 2014-2015 city budget. But given that our city has one of the most poorly funded library systems in the country as well as  a low performing public school district, library advocates are asking for more money.

Libraries are getting increased hours and 96 new staff members, but they could use more money for programs and technology. City Councilman Scott Griggs has proposed cuts elsewhere in the budget to free up $3.5 million more for libraries.

Dallas has a growing education and wealth gap, Griggs says. The city is working with its biggest budget of all time, $2.81 billion, and improving libraries is one of the few tools the city has to deal with those gaps.

“We need to fund these more if this is in fact something we value,” Griggs said during a budget briefing Tuesday.

But Mayor Mike Rawlings said there’s no evidence that throwing money at the libraries will help disseminate skills and knowledge.

The Mayor says he favors “zero-based budgeting,” which asks departments to start at zero and only request funds for things they can show they need.

City staff and library advocates ask for programming and technology, but there’s not enough strategy in their budgeting, he says.

“What do we want at the library system?” he says. “We don’t have a vision of saying, ‘This is what is right for the city of Dallas…’ We need to paint a picture of what we want and then decide how to get there.”

An earlier version of this post inaccurately characterized the library system’s budget increase.