PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
The state budget is now complete and approved. Library funding has not been changed from the Governor’s proposal to the legislature of a 5 percent cut over the next two years.
That is good news for Ohio’s public libraries, since libraries had received larger cuts in 2009 and for the past decade.
Hopefully, state officials recognized the previous cuts, and the impact that they had on Ohio’s public libraries in making recommendations for the next two years.
During the legislative process, it was discovered that the cut to public libraries will actually be 6 and one-half percent, as two agencies have been moved into the Public Library Fund.
OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped had been funded from the State General Revenue Fund, but will now be funded from the Public Library Fund.
OPLIN was formed in 1995 to serve as an agency to coordinate and provide networking services to Ohio’s 251 public library districts, and share databases to benefit all of Ohio’s citizens.
The Library for the Blind was formed in 1938 by the Library of Congress, to provide reading materials to blind and physically handicapped.
Today, the Cleveland Public Library operates the program for the entire State of Ohio.
While both are important programs, it is a shame that they were moved into the Public Library Fund.
It is like having more people come to dinner, without bringing an additional covered dish.
Of course, our library system is thankful that the citizens of Jefferson County approved a supplemental library levy last year to partly fill the void created by the 31 percent cut in funding that has taken place over the past decade.
Without that levy, the 7 libraries in our county would have had significant reductions in service by this time.
Today, 2/3 of Ohio’s public libraries have supplemental libraries levies, double from only 2 years ago.
I feel badly for the libraries that do not have levies, most have made cuts in hours and services, with some branch libraries now closed and gone.
It is interesting that libraries that have had levy campaigns also experience another phenomenon; a rapid increase in library usage.
The promotion of the levy also promotes the services of the library, resulting in increased usage.
That has been our experience as well. Our Summer Reading Clubs for both children and adults are seeing the largest number of registrations in years!
Library card registration is running 10 percent above the same time last year.
People are using the public computers at the library, checking out more books, CDs, and DVDs than before. Our databases and e-books are experiencing more logons.
At the same time, we have learned to stretch our dollars further than before by sharing with other libraries, and doing things in collaboration where possible.
We have also kept our promises from the levy campaign by restoring hours, and improving the library collections.
If you haven’t used your public library lately, now is the time to start.