Books Versus the Budget

The Virginia Festival of the Book is coming up next week.  This primo 5-day gathering of all kinds of people who love books is near and dear to my heart because, until this year, we were the bookseller for Crime Wave.  That’s a programming track dedicated to mystery and  there are always a great group of authors who spend the day at panels and signings, usually thoroughly entrenching themselves in the hearts of their fans.

We’re all suffering these days from this neverendingly wretched economy and the Virginia state government is no exception.  Still, our General Assembly wants to cut funding for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, host of the festival and many other fine projects during the year, possibly eliminating ALL funding.

Last year’s festival drew more than 20,000 people for the sixth straight year and many of those came from outside the state and spent lots of money while they were here.  The foundation receives some generous donations from private citizens and corporate donors but, without state funding, which is 40% of its total funding, it just can’t offer the festival or, at least, not in its current form.  I know we, the taxpayers, have to find ways to reduce state and local expenses but we will pay a terrible cost if we lose such a fine literary event that appeals to all ages and does so much to encourage reading and literacy.  Not only that, but the foundation fosters tourism throughout the state and helps make our communities attractive to businesses and their employees.

Virginia is certainly not the only state facing unpopular budget cuts in cultural programs but I think we need to remember that, without literacy and the arts and music and dance, we’re all very much poorer as a society.  I’m a believer in less government, not more, and I can understand the need to reduce some of the public funding for the Foundation but ALL of it??  In the boom times, we (through our representatives) spent like drunken sailors and that clearly has to stop but we need to find a way to keep such a fine event as the Virginia Festival of the Book.