Libraries plan for losses

Allison Smith

30 percent budget cut may close branches

Ravenna residents Brandon Visher, 9, and his sister, Marissa Tasker, 13, play games in the computers of the young adult room at the Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna Monday afternoon. Brittany Ankrom | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Three weeks ago, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland proposed a 30 percent budget cut to Ohio libraries. Added on to the 20 percent cut already made, libraries will be losing 50 percent of their funding.

Cass Owens, director of the Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna, said she had already made adjustments to the library to compensate for the 20 percent cut.

“We have a cold drink machine and a hot drink machine, it’s not a lot of revenue, but it’s something,” Owens said. “We doubled our fines from 5 cents a day to 10 cents a day, so it’s not like they’re very big even now, but every little bit helps.”

Owens said they have also put out a donation box which made $15 on the first day.

“People feel like it is their library and they feel like they’re doing something for it, so I think that’s important,” said Owens.

They have also focused on reducing commitments on expenses such as buying pricey reference materials every year, said Owens. The library board met and tried to figure out how to trim by 10 or 15 percent more.

Owens the said they wanted to keep service levels high, so everyone will work two hours less per week instead of cutting programs. She said everybody would take the hit, including her.

The board also looked at the open hours and looked at the circulation figures. The last hour of the day was the quietest, so they decided they would close at 8 p.m., instead of 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, which they implemented on June 22.

“Literally the paycheck that we get this week will be the first paycheck where we’re all at the lower amount,” Owens said.

Owens said after they had sorted everything out from the initial budget cut, Strickland proposed to cut another 30 percent from libraries’ budgets.

Portage County has three library districts, Reed Memorial Library, Kent Free Library and the Portage County District Library. Reed Memorial and Kent Free have local levees that help with funding, but most of Portage County District Library is funded by the state.

“They’ve really made some sacrifices there already, and they’re projecting that if this other percentage would come in, they’d have to close 3 out of 6 of their branches,” Owens said.

Libraries today are not only used for checking out books, Owens said. A lot of people come to the library to use the computers.

“Libraries can easily be part of the economic turnaround. This is where people come to file their unemployment claims, it’s where they come to fill out job applications. You can’t even apply for a job at Wal-Mart now without going online,” Owens said. “Lots of people don’t have computers and have never even touched them, and where do they go for help?”

Terri Manning, a library patron and Kent resident, brings her children to the Kent Free Library once every two weeks.

“I have five children,” Manning said. “We come maybe during the summer once a week.”

Manning said she used to take her older children to story time and she would be upset if the Kent Free Library were to close because of the budget cut.

“I would definitely miss this library, but any of the other libraries unfortunately wouldn’t affect me too much because we always come here,” Manning said.

Library patrons are using social networking to protest the 50 percent budget cut to libraries. The Facebook group “Save Ohio Libraries” has more than 52,000 members.

Libraries are also fighting back by encouraging their patrons to call by posting signs with information regarding the budget cuts. The signs urged patrons to call state representatives in protest against the cut.

Owens said they’ve taken down the signs because they expected the new state budget to be approved last week. Now that the state budget has been postponed until July 14, Owens said they’re getting worried again.

“For the most part, people don’t get rich working in libraries,” Owens said. “They do it because they love it.”

At this point they are just waiting to see what happens, said Owens . They had an emergency board meeting last week where they went through some what-if scenarios.

“If it’s closer to 25 percent, I think we’ll be able to trim. We won’t like some of the things we give up, but I think we can maintain most of the materials budget and almost all the jobs,” Owens said. “If it gets to 50 percent, there’s no sugarcoating it; we will have to reduce the size of the staff.”

Contact principal reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].