PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Why is your public library system asking for a Levy?
This is the second of three questions that I have promised to answer for the citizens of Jefferson County.
The decision to place an Operating Levy on the ballot was a difficult one. For a year, we looked at and reviewed the library’s operations to see what changes could be made.
The problem was that the library has been adjusting the budget since 2002 when the State first froze the Public Library Fund, the sole source of funding for public libraries.
The Fund was un-frozen in 2008 allowing it to work with the ups and downs of the economy. Unfortunately, it immediately went down and we reworked the library budget.
In July 2009, the State enacted legislation that actually was a compromise of the Governor’s recommendation of a 50 percent cut in the Public Library Fund; which was a 31 percent cut.
The only way to address that reduction was elimination of hours, 13 staff layoffs, and further cuts to the purchase of new library materials.
We older librarians still call it the “book budget,” the monies we use to buy new books, and now DVDs, CDs, online databases and magazines.
People have been so kind in their donation of new books, and their donation of time to assist around our libraries.
For the first time in our 110 year history, we are asking the citizens of Jefferson County for a supplemental Operating Levy of 1 mill, for a period of 5 years.
Your library system is an efficient operation, operating services countywide and part of a larger database of 74 libraries from around the state.
We share library operations with the 251 public library districts in Ohio and the 800 library outlets as part of OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) and are linked for shared services.
Usage of libraries nationwide continues to grow as more and more people make use of their public libraries for a myriad of services. We strain to provide sufficient bandwidth capacity for the public computers in all of our facilities.
Your library system has found ways of doing things more efficiently, so we are asking for just what is needed for continued operations of the existing system.
The Internet doesn’t replace libraries; it gives us with another tool to provide the service.
Our web site services as another “branch library” to the system, allowing you to check the library calendar for activities, or review the collection.
Search the online databases, or download an e-book; it is simply another door to your public library system.
The Levy has already changed the library system, as the promotion and publicity has already brought new people in the library doors to use our facilities.
I needed to order another 5,000 new library cards for our use, and found that number of cards only lasts half as long as it used to with increased library traffic.
National Public Radio recently had a program on the next wave of growth in public libraries.
The program stated that librarians know about stuff, libraries are green and local; you can borrow things from the library free because we all pool our resources.
Perhaps most importantly, libraries are a place to share with people; an unusual concept in our society today.
The decision regarding the Levy will belong to you this November. The responsibility for being a good steward belongs to me and the Library Board, and at the end of 5 years, you can tell us how we did with your money.