MS library makes cuts in materials, hours, staff

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To make ends meet, Mount Sterling Public Library has reduced its hours, staffing and book budget. The cuts went into effect on Feb. 1.

The library board decided to make the reductions at its Jan. 10 reorganization and budget meeting. The motion was made and passed "to keep operating expenses in line with anticipated revenues."  

Shrinking state funding and growing utility and fuel costs are two main reasons for the library’s budget constraints. The library’s annual budget of $230,000 comes from the state. The board’s aim is to cut costs for 2008 by $20,000 to $30,000.

“This decision had to be made as early as possible in the year," the board stated in a press release. "The library does have a levy on the ballot in March. It is possible that these and other cuts already made can be reversed. It is also possible that the library may have to make further cuts during the remainder of the year."

Closed on Wednesdays

Previously, the library’s hours of operation were Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Now, the library will be closed all day on Wednesday.

"By closing on Wednesdays, we save about $200 in staff costs, plus we will have utility savings on top of that," said Heidi Fletcher, the library’s director.

The last time the library reduced hours was over 10 years ago when Fletcher was an assistant librarian under Doris Wilson. For one summer, the library eliminated evening and weekend hours. The reason then was low traffic flow. The reason now is financial, Fletcher said.

The procedure for returning library materials on Wednesdays is the same as the procedure for returns made after hours anytime during the week. Books go in the external book drop. CDs and videos must be returned in person.

Storytime for 3- to 5-year-olds, previously held on Wednesday, is now held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

"The change also means that our community room isn’t available on Wed-nesdays," Fletcher said. No one group regularly used the room on Wednesdays, but the library often opens the space for teacher trainings, job fairs and non-profit organization meetings. Now, there is one less day of availability.

Fewer New Materials

Half of the library board’s cuts are being made to the book budget.

    

"We’ve spent about $40,000 in books and materials each of the last two years," Fletcher said. "The board wants to cut that amount by $10,000 to $15,000."

    

Reductions will be made in every category, from books on tape to magazines, she said.

     

No More Page Programs

Traditionally, the library hires high school students at minimum wage to work as pages, putting away books and helping with programs. Due to cuts, pages are no longer on the payroll.

According to Fletcher, the library normally hires six students to work during the summer; each puts in 21 hours per week. The library also hires six students from the civics/English class at Madison Plains High School to work during the school year; each works four hours per week to offset the cost of the class trip to Washington D.C. or New York City.

    

The students’ assistance will be missed, Fletcher said.

"We really, really love our pages. They are a vital part of the library to keep it going. They get the materials back out there so that the librarians can help patrons," she said.

    

In addition to reducing expenses, the library board is battling its budget situation by returning to voters with a request for additional operating money. The 1-mill property tax proposal will appear on the March 4 primary election ballot. A previous request in the November election failed.

The next library board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14. For more information, call 740-869-2430. The library is located at 60 W. Columbus St. in Mount Sterling.

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