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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.

Library Levy

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 03, 2011

Last November, the month was spent saying “thank you” to all of the people who supported the library levy, and those who actively campaigned for its passage.

 

Planning began to restore library hours and services that had been cut in 2009.

 

Once the election results were certified following the election, we began to work on the 2011 budget and established April 25 as the date those hours and staffing will return to 2009 levels.

 

When a property tax issue is approved in a November election, the actual increase in tax rates are placed on the next year’s tax bills which are invoiced in late-January.

 

The first of the new taxes are then paid to the agency around April 1.

 

The Library fielded a lot of questions relating to “when” library hours would return to the 2009 levels as promised in the election campaign.

 

A big factor in our planning process is the unknown funding of the Public Library Fund, which will provide more than 65 percent of the 2011 library budget.

 

Gov. Kasich would make his recommendation to the General Assembly on March 15, so a temporary budget was necessary for the first three months of 2011.

 

In the meantime, the library system began purchasing some new materials for our collections, but again staffing levels impacted that move.

 

Our Technical Processing Dept. that catalogs and links new materials to the computer database only has half the staff that it did previously, so why purchase new books that can’t be processed?

 

Adding to the fact that the library’s Bookmobile permanently “broke down” two weeks before the election; it had become a series of challenges to put things back together.

 

In reality, the library system isn’t being put back together the way it used to be.  A decade of cuts and reductions has placed us at 1996 funding levels, and the library levy was never meant to restore everything the way it used to be.

 

We have found new and different ways of doing things, and providing services to the public.  The library system has new priorities, and we are collaborating with other libraries more than ever to provide service.

 

The Library is being called upon more than ever to replace services provided by other former state and federal agencies now gone.

 

Gov. Kasich has recommended in his budget for the next two years that the Public Library Fund be reduced by 5 percent each year, recognizing the 31 percent cut that was made to libraries over the past decade, primarily in 2009.

 

The final budget must be in place by June 30, and we hope that the legislature will continue with his recommendation.

 

In the meantime, we are looking at the library’s needs for 2011.

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided funding for computers again in 2011, which will end the Gates Foundation commitment to libraries forever. 

 

This has been a tremendous aid to our libraries, but the Schiappa Branch was not included in the grant, so we are looking at the computer needs at that location separately.

 

The library also is in the planning process to replace the roofs at the Toronto and Schiappa buildings, both have passed the life span of the shingles.

 

Above all, we must keep our promises to the citizens of Jefferson County, who supported the library system with their votes last November.