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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Budget Changes at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 20, 2009

Change has been the motto at the library for the last six weeks.


With the enactment of the State Budget in July, Ohio’s libraries must make an immediate reduction in our 2009 budget in preparation for a 30 percent reduction in 2010.


Staff layoffs in August resulted in a loss of 22 percent of the staff of the library system.


The hours that our libraries are open has been reduced by 33 hours per week in 5 buildings and the Bookmobile.


A myriad of changes were made to every line item in the budget to immediately make a huge change in the way our library system operates.


It is amazing how one change can impact so many other aspects of the library.


The purchase of new books has been reduced by half, resulting in a reduction in the time spent processing and cataloging new items.


That staff time was then moved to the Children’s Library, where staff was reduced as the overall staff was reduced, which lowered the number of book jackets purchased to place on fewer new books.


With fewer new books, the demand for more books has increased with the economy, so people are placing more Holds in the computer system, which requires more staff time for shipping and transport between libraries.


But, since we reduced the shipping contract from 5 to 4 days per week to save money, the smaller number of shipments is actually larger due to more items per shipment.


And, if you don’t pick up the book you requested, we will charge you 50 cents for not getting it.


We have also increased the cost of out-of-state library cards from $ 5 to $ 10 per household, so less people are getting cards due to the increased cost.


We are charging $ 3 for an Interlibrary Loan request for something outside of our database, so the requests have fallen from an average of 50 per week to 4 per week.


Children’s books now have overdue fines charged on them, something we had not done since the 1950s.


And, in the midst of all of these changes, people are telling us how sorry they are that the library is enduring budget cuts.


One person told us that they keep their books overdue so they could pay the library fines.


We told them that they could donate to the library without keeping their books overdue.


Many people have brought book donations to the library to help, many are brand new books just purchased.


Overall, the adaptation to a new mode of operation at the library has gone well.


Staff understands the need for change, the thousands of users of our libraries understand why we are changing, and we thank everyone for the kind words of support.


Legislators in Columbus were overwhelmed by public support for libraries, and the cuts are not “as bad” as originally proposed.


In our current economy, the news of cuts to agencies and services has become an almost daily occurrence.


Cuts to libraries are something that relate to local, close & personal.  Libraries are facilities that people use every day, right here in our backyard.


At the same time, we are issuing more new library cards, and serving more people than ever.


Maybe libraries will be the “last stand” for service to the public.