PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Each January, the Board of Trustees of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County starts a new year with an Organizational Meeting to elect officers and establish a new budget for the fiscal year.
This year marked the 109th such meeting of the Board, since the first meeting was held on October 1, 1899 establishing the Carnegie Library of Steubenville.
That first meeting was for the purpose of purchasing property at 4th and Slack Streets as the site for the new library, and receiving the first check from Andrew Carnegie to fund the construction of that building.
Over the years, various notable events surrounded the Organizational Meeting of the Board, from the establishment of a countywide library system in 1936 to a contract for automation of the library system in 1987.
The 2009 Organizational Meeting was notable in a way that is unfortunate.
The budget for fiscal year 2009 was reduced for the third time since the Ohio Department of Taxation first estimated the "next year's budget" on July 20, 2008.
This means that the library's income from the Public Library Fund has been reduced by $ 268,000, which is the largest dollar amount and percentage that the library budget has been reduced since 1934.
The Fund was frozen from 2002 to 2007, with two reductions done to help balance the state budget.
In 2008, the Fund was finally unfrozen and allowed to grow, but the economic downturn caused the Fund to remain about the same.
There were no cuts made in the Public Library Fund in 2009, but since the fund receives 2.2 percent of all state revenues, the downturn in those revenues has impacted the Fund to a ten percent reduction.
Like all of us in our personal budgets, the library has reworked its budget for 2009 to live within "our means."
Since 2002, we have been revamping our budget to deal with increasing costs in light of no increases in revenues.
Today, we have 10 less employees than we did in 2002.
Purchases are carefully evaluated in light of state contract pricing and bulk purchases.
Our automation system is a cooperative of 73 libraries in Ohio, with central operations using the State of Ohio communications system.
We utilize federal E-Rate funding to finance a portion of our telecommunication costs.
Purchases of new library materials are based on computer runs of requests, and the shared system allows better utilization of materials within the 73 libraries online.
We will be using building funds to upgrade lighting fixtures and HVAC controls to lower utility costs.
The library system is fortunate that our buildings have been maintained in good condition and don't require major renovation projects.
With the economic downturn has come an increased usage of public libraries across the nation.
I hope we will be able to continue to meet the needs of the public's need for information through library usage.
My predecessors dealt with similar issues in past years, money to pay for the coal for the boiler and a leaking roof with no funds for repair.
And so is the responsibility of a public institution such as the library.