Libraries surviving despite budget cuts

Helene Miller

Reed Memorial Library and Kent Free Library have found ways to continue accommodating their patrons while losing nearly a third of their funding.

Last July, shortly after the Ohio Public Library Fund had been reduced by 20 percent, the state decided to take another 11 percent away from the fund.

“This is a very difficult time,” said Carmen Zampini, the director of Kent Free Library. “I believe that the Board of Trustees is making every effort to provide much needed services to the public, to be fiscally responsible and to plan for the future and to be aware of the needs of the dedicated staff members who work so hard every day.”

She said 100 percent of Kent Free Library’s funding comes from the public library fund, and while 2010 has been better than 2009, the library had to drop services and lay off staff members.

The most noticeable changes are the operating hours and furloughs. Zampini said the library has lost at least two hours a day, and in 2009, the library closed for two weeks and didn’t pay employees.

Cass Owens, director of the Reed Memorial Library, said they’re surviving the cuts as well and are even able to cancel their two planned furloughs for 2010.

Owens said that instead of laying off employees, each full-time employee took a two-hour cut per week and each part-time employee took a one-hour-cut per week. But, she said, the library has lost about five positions as a result of a hiring freeze.

Owens said a lot of help has come from carry-over funds left from the library’s expansion in 2006. Reed Memorial Library is also fortunate enough to have a friends of the library group which provided about $17,000 in the past year. She said the group also helped the library to buy printers so it could do more in-house printing to cut costs.

Reed Memorial Library closes at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. during the week now.

“I feel fortunate that we only lost five hours a week,” Owens said.

She also said there is a local levy that pays for the mortgage on the building, which has made a huge difference since the cuts.

The library is also working on starting a not-for-profit charitable foundation so people and groups can give tax-deductible donations to the library. Owens thinks this will help supplement budget cuts in the future once the carry-over money runs out.

“I think that overall the public here at Reed hasn’t been affected much,” Owens said.

Interim Circulation Director Bob Opper and Reference Center Manager Tom Warren of the Kent State University Library said they haven’t seen any type of change in patronage.

“We haven’t seen, here at our library, any major impact,” Warren said.

Zampini and Owens continue to search for ways to save money and cut costs without affecting the public or reducing staff. For example, Owens has taken on many of the responsibilities of the building and grounds manager the library lost.

“I’d say everyone has stepped up to take on some things,” Owens said.

Contact library reporter Helene Miller at [email protected].