The Newcomerstown Public Library Board of Trustees were forced to make very difficult decisions when they met July 14 to cope with additional cuts to library funding approved in the State's new biennium budget.
Those difficult decisions included laying off one part-time staff member, severely cutting hours for six others and slashing expenditures for books, audio books, DVDs, databases, and magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
"It was the most depressing meetings I can remember" says Linda Hren who has served as the library's director since 1985. "The only good news is that we won't have to close our doors completely."
Instead of losing 50% of their operating funds, libraries are coping with a 30% reduction. The exact amount of funding loss is difficult to pinpoint because the legislature voted to reduce library funding by reducing the Public Library Fund "in temporary law" from 2.22% of State Revenues to 1.97%. If State Revenue continues to decline so will library funding for every library in Ohio. Current projections show a funding loss of $60,000 by the end of 2009 for the Newcomerstown Public Library. The Library expects 2010 funds to fall short by $84,000. Hren did not rule out the need for additional cuts if the funding situation continues to erode.
The library will have to eliminate half of the magazine and newspaper subscriptions and has canceled all standing orders for books. Books on CD have been cut 75% and the library will not be purchasing any new DVDs or music CDs for the rest of 2009.
"Libraries only have two places we can make significant cuts--staff and materials", says Hren. "Because we are service oriented, our people and our materials are also our greatest asset. It is very much a 'no-win' situation."
Adding to the Library's financial stress is a $26,000 USDA loan payment due every November. The library borrowed $350,000 in 2000 to complete the construction of the new building at 123 East Main Street. At the time, libraries in Ohio were receiving 5.7% of income tax revenues and the economy was growing. Like the good jobs many Ohioans depended upon to make their mortgage payments, the Library secured the loan based on the stability of the Public Library Fund. Like the bankers holding many home mortgages, the USDA said, "No", when the Library asked about refinancing the loan to lower payments when library funding was slashed.
"We were told our loan payment has to be made regardless of what we have to cut to make that $26,000 payment." A fundraising campaign to pay off the $276,000 the library still owes is not much of an option when so many area residents are also struggling financially. "I cannot even fathom how to go about asking people to help come up with such a large sum in this economy," said Hren.
For area residents wishing to help, the Library is looking for donors interested in sponsoring a magazine or newspaper subscription, or donating funds to purchase a new book by their favorite author or a new movie release on DVD. Donors will be able to read or view materials they sponsor for one week before the item is placed in general circulation. Alternatively, donors may wish to simply purchase an item on their own and donate the item when they are finished with it. A list of magazines and newspapers slated for cancelation is available at the library along with a wish list of new books and DVDs the library will be unable to purchase.
For continuing updates and more details visit the library's website at www.newcomerstownlibrary.org.