PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Our Library System is developing plans to manage our finances for 2009, just like all of us are doing in these difficult economic times.
Our 2008 budget was adjusted three times during the year to address declining revenues caused by the decline in state revenues.
Public libraries in Ohio receive our funding from the Public Library Fund (PLF), which is based on 2.22 percent of the total tax revenue received by the State of Ohio.
PLF is one of the Local Government Funds in the state budget.
This method of funding public libraries began in 1986 when an overhaul of the State Tax Code eliminated the local tax that had funded public libraries since 1933.
PLF did a good job of equalizing library funding across Ohio until 2001 when the fund was frozen by the Legislature.
The Fund was formerly based on collections of the state income tax, but as those rates were reduced, the Governor and Legislature switched the base to all state tax revenues in 2007, and unfroze the fund.
Now the economy is the culprit, causing 2008 revenues to decline by 1.7 percent.
Estimates for 2009 are showing a decline of up to ten percent in the Fund.
The Governor and Legislature have stood by their support of public libraries and local governments by not reducing the funding formulas.
Instead, the economy is causing the fund to decline.
In these economic times, all libraries are seeing increases in their usage by the public as the information source for our communities.
More books, DVDs, e-books, and CDs are being checked out than ever before.
Our Internet services and databases are being accessed in the library and from home computers.
We are disseminating information for local, state, and federal agencies that no longer have offices open to the public.
Public Libraries are working together to reduce costs.
Since 1988, our library system has been part of an automation consortium that now includes 73 libraries across Ohio.
We are part of the State Telecommunications Network for Internet access.
In 2008, we received a J.C. Williams Grant for digitization, an LSTA Grant for Early Childhood Literacy, and E-Rate Funds to support telecommunications and Internet access.
But, grants are for specific purposes and don't pay staffing costs for utility bills.
We participate in group purchasing, and take advantage of any opportunities for funding outside of our regular budget.
In our 110-year history, the library has worked with economic downturns before.
In 1924, we closed for three months, as we couldn't afford to buy coal for the boiler.
In 1955, we declared the roof to be a bookmobile, and moved funds to re-roof the building with remaining bookmobile monies.
I hope there are more rabbits remaining in our hat.