Cuts could close library doors
According to the Ohio Library Council, Governor Ted Strickland has proposed a cut to state funding for public libraries of $227 million for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. This is part of his plan to fill the $3.2 billion gap in the budget that must be balanced and voted on by June 30.
Mark Shaw, director for the Southwest Public Libraries (SPL), said this plan would devastate the library system.
The budget cuts, proposed by the governor, would reduce library funding by 47 percent in fiscal year 2010 and 45 percent in 2011, as compared to fiscal year 2008 distributions.
“Our library has already made deep cuts in 2009 to find ways to remain solvent, while sustaining a 20 percent reduction in state dollars over last year,” said Shaw. “Reductions of this magnitude will force us to cut our operation in half.”
Shaw explained that SPL would also have to close the Grove City Library and Westland Area Library half of the year, cut programming for children and adults, eliminate Outreach to Homebound and drastically cut staff.
SPL had expected revenue to decline from approximately $4 million in 2008 to $3.2 million this year. If the General Assembly enacts Strickland’s proposal, revenue would further drop to $2.2 million or less.
Earlier this month, the SPL board of trustees voted to cut $100,000 from the budget (in addition to the $100,000 budget cut in March) and eliminate employee health care.
Employees will also be required to take one unpaid day off each month, beginning Aug. 3. Trustees cut library hours. As of Aug. 3, the branches will close 5 p.m. on Wednesday instead of 9 p.m. They will close at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, instead of 6 p.m.
In addition, the board voted to charge a $25 fee for those wanting to use a meeting room for four hours. There will also be a $1 charge for the replacement of a lost library card.
SPL receives 95 percent of its funding from the state of Ohio, through the Public Library Fund.
“That’s what makes the cuts (proposed by the governor) so severe for us,” said Shaw.
Shaw explained that libraries throughout the state would feel the pinch, but SPL has no local tax levy. SPL is the only library system in Franklin County without local support.
Shaw said now the board would have to consider all its options, including a property tax levy.
State Representative Cheryl Grossman said the cut in library funding does not have her support.
“We cannot compromise the outstanding library system we have,” said Grossman.
Grossman sent a letter to the governor expressing her dismay with the proposal.
It states, “At Southwest Public Libraries, children’s programs attendance, registered borrowers, checkouts of library materials, meeting room use and patron visits have increased dramatically.
“More importantly, Internet computer use by the public for SPL has increased 57.7 percent from 2005 to 2008. Ohioans who are unemployed and without computer access are depending on our libraries to facilitate their job searches, apply and ultimately become employed.”
Grossman said her office has been flooded by calls and e-mails from library patrons upset about the proposed cuts.
“The people have every right to be angry,” she said.
The representative explained in 2007, the governor agreed to provide a steady source of income for Ohio’s libraries through House Bill 119.
“You can’t go back on your word,” said Grossman. “It’s unacceptable.”
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