Local Libraries Under the Gun

Faced with a proposed 50 percent cut to public library funding in Ohio, library officials are hoping residents protest to such a degree that state officials have to take note.

Otherwise, drastic cuts are in the offing with some libraries expected to close.

In Jefferson County alone, adoption of the governor’s proposed 2010-2011 biennium budget would result in the closing of five library branches, elimination of bookmobile service, 35 staff layoffs and reduced hours at the Main Library and Schiappa Branch, according to Alan Hall, director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

Hall noted the library branches, which would close, are located in Adena, Brilliant, Dillonvale, Tiltonsville and Toronto.

Action is needed now while the proposed budget is under consideration, and Hall is asking residents to contact the governor’s office and state legislators.

Other Eastern Ohio library officials including Kitty Koch of the Barnesville Hutton Memorial Library and Yvonne Myers of the Martins Ferry Public Library are calling upon residents to inform state officials of their objections to the 50 percent decrease in funding.

Koch said acceptance of the proposed budget “will close many, many Ohio libraries and cause drastic reductions for those that try to stay open.”

Indicating only a few days remain before action is taken on the budget, Koch said letters will not help and asked that the officials be contacted immediately by e-mails or telephone calls.

“It’s too soon to determine what we’re going to do (if the proposed reduction occurs),” said Koch. “If the governor’s proposal goes through, we’ll have to reduce hours, thus reducing staff.

“We’ve already cut our book budget. It will be cut again.”

Koch pointed out that one unemployed woman described the library as “the only place I can try to find a job” with reference to Internet service.

“Little libraries are trying to survive,” the Barnesville library director said. “We have less than many, many areas, and it may be taken away.”

Koch sought help Monday night from the Barnesville Village Council, and council voted to officially oppose the proposed 50 percent funding decrease.

Myers pointed out a 20 percent reduction put into effect this year already has reduced hours, materials and staffing. “Another large reduction,” she said, “will greatly curtail programs and services available at this time.”

With a final decision on the proposal expected within days and new budget taking effect July 1, Myers said it is important for residents to make their voices heard now.

Although library cuts already have occurred this year, Hall noted library usage has increased, “because the economy is in a downturn. Now more than ever, customers depend on the library for computers, DVDs, books, newspapers and Internet service.”

He said the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County depends solely on state funding to fund operations as do 70 percent of the state’s libraries.

Hall emphasized the residents make their objections known this week.

Lynda Murray of the Ohio Library Council also stressed the importance of keeping Ohio’s libraries open. In a message circulated on the American Library Association Council electronic mailing list, she said, “I do not believe that many of our library systems, especially those without local levies, can remain open with those (proposed) cuts.”

As reported in the Library Journal, Murray also said, “We cannot close Ohio’s libraries. Public libraries offer critical services to those looking for jobs and operating small businesses. Public libraries are critical to education, which Gov. (Ted) Strickland says is critical to our recovery.”

Strickland’s telephone number is 614- 466-3555 and for an e-mail, go to the Ohio governor’s Web page and connect to “Contact the Governor Online.” State Sen. Jason Wilson can be reached calling 614- 466-6508 or sending an e-mail to senatorwilsonmaild.sen.state.oh.us.

State Rep. John Domenick’s telephone number is 614-466-3735 while his e-mail address is district95ohr.state.oh.us and the fax number is 614-719-6995.

To reach state Rep. Allen Sayre, the telephone number is 614-466-8035 while his e-mail address is district96ohr.state.oh.us.