Area libraries are bracing for the possibility of more cuts to hours and services as the governor and state legislature come down to the wire balancing the next biennium budget.
Gov. Ted Strickland’s latest proposal includes reductions in the Public Library Fund for fiscal 2010 of about $112.5 million and $114.8 million in 2011 as part of a plan to fill a gap of about $3.2 billion.
Ohio’s Public Library Fund receives 2.22 percent of general revenue fund tax receipts. The monies are distributed to counties based on a statutory formula.
With Ohio’s economy suffering – and tax receipts dropping – libraries have already been hit by a loss of revenue. Pam Hoesman, director of the Birchard Public Library of Sandusky County, estimates the Public Library Fund is already down by about 20 percent compared to 2008 because of lower tax revenues.
If the governor’s proposal is enacted into the budget, which goes into effect July 1, libraries will be facing an additional cut in funding of about 30 percent, she said.
From January through June of this year, public libraries in Sandusky County have received approximately $831,012 from the library fund. Seventy-two percent of that is shared by the Birchard Library in Fremont and branches in Gibsonburg, Woodville, and Green Springs while the balance is shared by libraries in Clyde and Bellevue.
During the economic downturn, the Birchard system has relied on a library foundation, Friends of the Library, and a trust fund, which is designated for purchasing books, Hoesman said.
A loss of revenues approaching 50 percent, however, would be too much to absorb without cuts in hours and services, she said.
“At best it could mean cutting hours,” Hoesman said. “We would hate to take services away from the local communities, especially at a time when our circulation is at an all time high.”
As the economy has slowed, more people are using libraries for work-related services, she said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people typing resumes, applying for jobs online,” Hoesman said, adding small-business operators also frequently use the library.
Harris-Elmore director foresees cuts
Georgiana Huizenga, director of the Harris-Elmore Public Library, said reduced hours at the Elmore library and Genoa branch are likely if the additional cuts are enacted.
“While our `main’ library in Elmore and our `branch’ library in Genoa are pretty much run equally, if this proposal actually happens, I could see greatly reducing hours at both libraries. We have not had to lay off staff, but I can certainly see this happen,” she said. “We in the Ohio library community are certainly willing to shoulder our share of the burden in this economy, but this is simply unacceptable.”
Huizenga announced last December the libraries will reduce their hours in 2009 due to a projected loss of funding from the state.
The libraries close at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a half-hour earlier than previous closing time, and are open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.
Several employees had their hours reduced and a salary freeze went into effect. An increase in the cost of photocopies was also implemented.
“We’re trying to do it in a way that affects the public as little as possible,” Huizenga said at the time.
The library’s board of trustees approved the changes but declined to seek approval of a local property tax levy to bolster the library’s finances, saying voters were unlikely to support a levy given the current economic climate.
In Woodville, resident Terri Kruse has been distributing flyers along Main Street, urging the public to contact the governor as well as State Senator Karen Gillmor and Representative Jeff Wagner and oppose the cuts.
The flyers direct residents to visit the Web site: saveohiolibraries.com for information.