Pickerington library in financial trouble

The Pickerington Public Library is in a bad situation, according to Robert Blair, a member of the Board of Trustees. 

Blair updated the Pickerington Board of Education on the situation at its Dec. 8 meeting. Operating revenue has dropped in recent years, Blair said, so the library is being forced to find ways to cut costs and will seek local funding.    

The library is funded through the state’s Public Library Fund, and when the Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis started getting funding in 2004, Pickerington started getting less, officials say.

The Pickerington library gets no local tax funding, only money from fines and fees. This year the money from fines and fees is about $45,000 to date. 

Blair said even though that amount might seem like enough, it won’t fund a library. The total operating revenue has been more $1 million per year since 2001, he said. 

In 2008, the library received $983,000 in funding, and library officials are having trouble making the budget work, Blair said.  Increases in health care costs and inflation are taking their toll. 

To save money, the library has reduced its open hours and eliminated some federal holidays. The library also let seven employees go this year, which is causing staffing problems, and Blair said officials can’t reduce the staff much more.

Library staff also dramatically cut back on new book purchases, which means the latest books might not be available for students.

Ironically, the library is as busy as ever, he said. In 2000, there were about 118,000 visitors to the library, compared to almost 270,000 visitors in 2008. At the same time, there are fewer employees and more than $200,000 less in revenue than in 2000. 

The outlook doesn’t look better in 2009, when the library could lose another $85,000 in funding. 

"There’s no easy way out of this, it is what it is," Blair said. 

Library officials will have to ask for help, he said, and would like to have the ballot initiative next November.

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