Doing Good

Dallas libraries look to North Texas Giving Day for budget boost

Dallas libraries look to North Texas Giving Day for budget boost

North Texas Giving Day kicks off September 18 with the goal of surpassing its record of 75,000 donations totaling $25.2 million. With more than 1,500 nonprofits to choose from, there's no shortage of deserving causes.

But Kate Park, executive director at Friends of Dallas Public Library, is hoping generous Dallasites remember the library this year.

Although most major American cities allot 3 to 4 percent of their budgets to libraries, Dallas sets aside just 2 percent. That leaves a lot of ground to make up, and because of increased budget cuts, the nonprofit Friends of Dallas Public Library now funds all the programming at area libraries.

 "For people who are tired of hearing about how underfunded the Dallas library system is, this is their chance to do something about it," Kate Park says.

Park says Dallas libraries lost 50 percent of their staff and 30 percent of their funding over the last six years.

"The city budget pays for books, buildings and bodies," Park says. "Everything else is paid for by donations. It is amazing what the library is able to do with the money we raise."

With one in five North Texas adults classified as functionally illiterate, Park says there is much work to be done, including basic reading classes, GED prep courses, ESL education and enrichment programs such as story time.

"North Texas Giving Day is a powerful way for people to understand what Friends of Dallas Public Library pays for," she says. "Not everybody uses the library, but a lot of people in our community depend on it."

Organized by the Communities Foundation of Texas, the one-day fundraiser connects donors to local nonprofits with an enticing promise to amplify any donation of $25 or more made on the North Texas Giving Day website with $2 million in bonus funds. The virtual coffers are open from 6 am to midnight on September 18.

One of the new projects that Parks is particularly proud of is getting the Dallas Central Library designated as an official GED testing center, the first of its kind in the South. Previously, El Centro College was the only GED testing location in Dallas. "We will now be able to have triple the amount of space for people to take the test," Park says.

Park says the hardest part of her job is educating people about the fact that even though libraries are funded by taxpayer dollars, it still needs outside support to thrive.

"For people who are tired of hearing about how underfunded the Dallas library system is, this is their chance to do something about it," she says. "We would love to get back to a point where we can continue to advocate for the library but it is not out of a place of scarcity."

Children reading books
Friends of Dallas Public Library hosts events to encourage reading. Photo via Facebook
Kate Park of Friends of Dallas Public Library
Kate Park is the executive director at Friends of Dallas Public Library. Photo by Jo Giudice
Child reading a book
A young reader takes a closer look at a new book. Photo via Facebook
Teens looking at books
The Dallas library system relies on donations for programming. Photo via Facebook