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Librarians lament potential funding cuts from state

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    The Elyria Public Library West River Branch children's section.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Lisa Smith, a library technician 2 at the West Branch Library in Elyria, scans books and DVDs back into the computer system on Tuesday afternoon, March 7.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    The Elyria Public Library West River Branch.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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Local libraries are asking for the public’s help in speaking out against proposed state budget cuts that, if passed, would reduce services and collection sizes at several Lorain County branches.

Under House Bill 49, which is the proposed operating budget for the state, the Public Library Fund would be reduced from 1.7 percent to 1.66 percent on July 1.

In Wellington, Herrick Memorial Library this week launched a letter-writing campaign urging the public to tell legislators why their library is important to them in an effort to maintain the funding level.

“This levy that we just passed, it’s not going to let us move forward like we wanted to,” Herrick Library director Janet Hollingsworth said. “We’re going to be using more of that money to maintain what we have.”

Last year, Herrick library received $287,137. If the budget passes, the library would only receive about $275,293.

“We met with (state representatives) to discuss the whole process and are asking to help keep us at 1.7 percent,” Hollingsworth said.

With the extra money from the levy, the library was planning to purchase additional materials for nursing students who attend college at the Lorain County Community College Wellington Center.

In 2008, libraries were funded with 2.22 percent of the state gross revenue fund, but because of the Great Recession, that dropped in 2010 to 1.97 percent and then again in 2013 to 1.66 percent. The rate was increased this year to 1.7 percent, where libraries were hoping it would stay, but under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget, that’s not the case.

“Not only are they talking about reducing our part of the pie, but they’re talking about reducing the size of the pie, so we get a double whammy,” said Lyn Crouse, director of the Elyria Public Library System.

Elyria depends on state funding for about 50 percent of its budget, and Crouse said the library has already made cuts to deal with dwindling funding.

“We run a tight ship anyway,” Crouse said. “We’re very good stewards of the taxpayer money, so we always try to maintain our services, our hours and our programs, but that’s as funding permits.”

Crouse met with local legislators to urge them to oppose the cuts, and the library will be chartering a bus from Lorain County to go to Columbus on March 29 for Legislative Day.

“We’ll have a busload down there and keep working with our patrons and our community to ask them to contact legislators because now, when the budget process is actually happening, this is the time to make ourselves known,” Crouse said.

In Avon Lake, the proposed cut would result in a loss of about $13,000 for the library, director Mary Crehore said.

“That’s 500 fewer new materials for the public to borrow — books, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, digital downloads, etc.,” Crehore said.

Tami Mullins, communications coordinator for the Grafton-Midview Public Library, said the staff hung posters around the building asking patrons to contact local legislators to oppose the cuts.

A bit more than half of Grafton’s budget comes from state funding.

“If we get cut, what is going to happen here is funding for certain materials is going to go,” Mullins said. “There will be certain things that either we won’t be able to purchase anymore or they’ll be drastically cut.”

Mullins didn’t have specific dollar amount that the library would lose, but in terms of resources she said the library would not be able to purchase new adult audiobooks, new adult fiction and 815 new books for children.

“We’re always looking for creative ways to make up for it,” Mullins said.

Darren McDonough, director of Oberlin Public Library, said he stopped depending on state funding about 10 years ago. While state funding used to account for about two-thirds of its budget, now it only makes up for one-third.

“Our community is so supportive of the library that we added an additional levy right away,” McDonough said. “The concern is that they just keep taking money away little by little and then (Gov. John) Kasich goes on TV and says that we should all use our libraries more.”

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.

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