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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.

Ohio's Library Funding Crisis

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Library Funding crisis continues, with a temporary state budget in place through July 7, and the structure to continue until July 14 passed by the legislature.

 

In the last few days, the Governor’s Office and legislators have been deluged by phone calls and e-mails from the public in support of public libraries.

 

Some say that it is the largest outpouring of messages in support of an agency in many years.

 

Lots of people have contacted the library telling of their efforts to support library funding, and telling us their stories relating to the library.

 

I have heard stories of the library being a home-away-from-home for many young people, and the impact that had for their college plans.

 

Many letters explained that the public library is a person’s only access to the Internet, and their only computer to use for job searches.

 

Each story is unique and different, and it is exciting to hear and read what is being sent to Columbus.

 

For all of us working in a public library, these stories are revealing.

 

We provide library service to the public, but only occasionally do we hear the background and results of library usage.

 

Many people have asked how the public library got to be part of the “state budget?”

 

From 1805 until 1933, public libraries in Ohio were supported by whatever government agency established the library.

 

Many were outgrowths of lyceums or subscription libraries, which opened to the public.

 

Our library system was established by the City of Steubenville on October 1, 1899 to receive monies from Andrew Carnegie.

 

The new library would be an outgrowth of various libraries of the 19th century.

 

In 1933, Ohio developed the intangibles tax for the support of public libraries, and established new regulations and laws relating to library operation.

 

On January 1, 1936, the State Library of Ohio assigned all of Jefferson County to the existing library, forming the county-wide system.

 

Fifty years of library funding ended in 1986, as the intangibles tax was repealed and replaced with the Library and Local Government Support Fund.

 

LLGSF, as it was called, received 6.3% of the proceeds of the state income tax.

 

In 1991, the percentage was changed by the legislature and governor to 5.7% and I guess we should have recognized that library funding would become a continuing issue.

 

From 2002-2004, the fund was frozen and small cuts were made to the Fund.

 

The state income tax rates were changed, so in 2008 the fund was renamed the Public Library Fund, and its support was moved to 2.22% of the state’s total tax revenues.

 

This structure would allow library funding to follow the ups and downs of the economy, and it did so the last half of 2008 and into 2009, with funding down 20 percent.

 

Now the Governor’s recommendation is to cut another 30 percent above the existing decline of 20 percent.