Portage County District Library wants to expand services with levy proposal


Courtney Caldwell, adult reference librarian at the Aurora Memorial Library, said if the Issue 15, a new tax levy for the Portage County District Library, passes, it can help the library buy new materials and offer more e-media and downloadable content for its users.

Alicia Balog

The Portage County District library plans to offer increased services at its five branches and its outreach program if its 1 mill, 10-year tax levy passes on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“We would absolutely be open more days and more hours in our branches,” said Cecilia Swanson, director of the Portage County District Library. “We would have more money to buy new materials and be able to expand our online offerings.”

The levy proposes a new 1 mill, 10-year tax that would start in 2014 but be due in 2015.

A 1 mill levy “amounts to $0.10 for each one hundred dollars of valuations, for 10 years,” according to the levy’s Notice of Election on the Portage County Board of Elections website.

Swanson said the library talked to the Portage County Auditor’s office and explained the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $35 a year, or $3 a month, and would give the library about $2.4 million per year.

Due to cuts in state funding, including a 30 percent budget cut in 2009, the library had to lay off staff and reduce days and hours at its five branches in Aurora, Garrettsville, Randolph, Streetsboro and Windham.

The Randolph Library, for example, is closed Thursdays and opens in the afternoon Mondays and Tuesdays, said Paul Isner, president of the Friends of the Randolph Library.

“If you go to the library, you want a chance to see or feel what’s there,” he said. “If you’re going to build a table, or a man’s going to build a table or a model airplane, he wants to see other things that might be better. He doesn’t want to get one idea from one book, one e-book. That’s why it’s important that they have basic hours.”


A “yes” vote means more money for the five libraries to offer extended services, such as being open more hours, offering more content and providing more services to other communities.

A “no” vote means nothing changes. “We would just continue on as we are with limited resources,” said Cecilia Swanson, director of the Portage County District Library. The libraries would offer the same services and stay at the same hours unless the state cuts more funding.

Isner said it’s hard for people to remember when the library is open, so he thinks the levy has a chance of passing because people can see the problem with the library’s hours.

Courtney Caldwell, adult reference librarian at the Aurora Memorial Library, said the library would not only offer more hours of service but more materials if the levy passes.

“We would be able to buy more items that people will sometimes go outside of the county for,” Caldwell said. “My number one thing is that I want everyone who comes into the library to walk out with what they wanted. And I think if I can pull it off the shelf and hand it to them, I think that’s so much better than saying to someone ‘Well can you wait a couple of weeks so I can get it from Cincinnati or so I can get it from Toledo?’”

The amount of money the library is receiving now is equal to what it received in 1996, Swanson said.

“Our state association, the Ohio Library Council, has noted that across the state, library funding is about where it was in 1996,” she said. “I always say we’re trying to provide 21st century services with 20th century dollars.”

Swanson said if people vote for the new tax, the return on investment is excellent.

“For every one dollar in tax money spent, the people who use the library are getting at least $5 value back in terms of the materials they borrow or the programs or the computers they use,” she said.

All residents of Portage County can vote on Issue 15, except for residents of the Kent and Ravenna school districts, which have their own independent libraries.

Swanson said the new tax would also only affect property owners in Portage County, except for those living in the Kent and Ravenna school districts.

Ellen Poole, president of the Friends of the Pierce Streetsboro Library, already cast her vote for the levy.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” she said. “They need all the money they can get.”

But she said she wouldn’t bet her life on the levy passing because the people of Streetsboro have enough trouble paying their bills.

“While they do support the library and are very good with the book sales and stuff, they only have so much money to go around,” she said.

If the library’s levy attempt doesn’t pass once again, it would still offer its services with the limited resources it has despite new people exploring the library everyday, Caldwell said.

“Those are things that sometimes people don’t even realize, like you can go to the library and get the new Bruno Mars CD, things like that,” Caldwell said. “If it didn’t pass, we would just kind of stay stagnant, where we are. And our patrons aren’t decreasing. They’re increasing, so we really need a passage to better serve the larger number of people who are continually returning to use the library.”

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].