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Libraries pinched over budget cuts

Mar. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Barksdale library, study haven for Airmen
An airman studies his career development course materials at the library on Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier/Air Force)
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Need that quiet spot to study for your next specialty knowledge test? You may need to find an alternative from your base library.

Libraries at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; have closed their doors within the last year in the wake of budget cuts known as sequestration.

Three more base libraries — F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — expect to downsize or close upon submission of closure packages, which await approval from their major commands, the Air Force and the Defense Department, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The Wright-Patterson library, for example, has transformed into the “Information Learning Center,” which provides airmen career development and college development study aids — but childrens’ books, leisure reading materials and many family programs have been outsourced to nearby metropolitan libraries.

“The Air Force must balance maintaining critical mission readiness and operational capability in support of national security objectives while taking care of airmen and their families under these constrained budget conditions,” said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson. “The current fiscal uncertainty and resource reductions associated with sequestration create difficult budget decisions and careful review of support services.”

In some communities where quality libraries are located in proximity to the base, Air Force leaders are partnering with local community leaders to make use of off-base facilities through the Air Force Community Partnership Initiative.

For example, the Robins Air Force Base, Ga., library has a partnership with the Houston County Library System.

Other bases participating in the Air Force Community Partnership Initiative include Altus AFB, Okla.; Beale AFB, Calif.; Buckley AFB, Colo.; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; Fairchild AFB, Wash.; Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Maxwell AFB, Ala.; Moody AFB, Ga.; Nellis AFB, Nev.; Patrick AFB, Fla.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Tinker AFB, Okla.

The Hill library, which expects to close, also participates in this program.

But given the digital age, airmen and families can reach most local library resources online. Resources can be obtained electronically within the Air Force Portal, resources tab; usafservices.com; and the Military One Source website (DoD MWR Libraries) at militaryonesource.mil, Dickerson said.

Resources include downloadable e-books, e-magazines, e-audio books and a variety of informational databases such as electronic resources for college-level practice tests, research and academic journals, and practice tests for various technical certifications.

Libraries are also getting creative and making use of new resources: The library at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., partners with “Hoopla digital,” a service that works with libraries across North America to provide online and mobile access of thousands of movies, TV shows, videos, music and audiobooks.

Members of the base can now use their library card number to download, borrow or stream content to their smartphones, tablets, computers and Apple TV.

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