Columbus libraries in opposition to proposed cuts

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According to libraries in the region, the need for books, magazines, job centers and stories following the chaos and uncertainty of a pandemic year is greater than ever.

A recently announced legislative plan to reduce the state’s stake in the Public Library Fund, which provides nearly half of the resources for Ohio’s 251 library systems, would be a hardship for some and a disaster for many, library officials say.

“I would ask you to support the services that support your constituents,” said George Needham, director of the Delaware County District Library system. “All I can think of is roads that the state may use as libraries for a larger percentage of the public.”

About a third of Delaware’s $ 7 million budget comes from the State Library Fund, which helps support the county system’s main library and three branches in the growing county. Property taxes support the equilibrium.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library will lose $ 1.5 million in two years

The Public Library Fund consists of 1.7% of the Ohio General Income Fund. That’s roughly $ 871 million over the biennium. However, according to the Ohio Library Council, this would drop to 1.66% under the proposal – $ 22 million less over two years for all libraries. And if a proposed income tax is taken into account and government revenue falls, it could be worse.

Fifty of Ohio’s 251 library systems are entirely dependent on funding with no local property tax levies.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library estimates the cuts will save $ 1.5 million in two years. The system’s overall fund budget in 2021 is $ 78.5 million, 29 percent of which comes from government funds.

The proposed cuts prompted Pat Losinski, the library’s CEO, and others to recently testify at the Statehouse on behalf of all the libraries.

“We really don’t ask for more, but we don’t ask for a cut,” Losinski told The Dispatch. “Two years ago when this budget was set, life was normal.”

Losinski believes lawmakers appreciate the importance of libraries in Ohio and that “there is a long way to go in recovery from the pandemic. And if we don’t care, we could lose a generation of students and that could haunt us.” us for a long time. “

Lose money when library services are needed most

Needham calculated what the proposed reductions would mean for his system.

“That’s the equivalent of a full-time job we’re going to lose, or 5% of our book budget,” he said. The loss of staff means the loss of services somewhere. “

And cuts would come at a time when services are most needed, he said.

“During the pandemic, people realized that there were features of the library that they hadn’t used,” Needham said.

Examples include electronic book loans, which are up 30%; Online and telephone reference service; and virtual storytime.

“Now we have people just out and about and going back to the library and we’re seeing others who discovered us online,” Needham said.

At the Licking County Library, new director Susanne Sacchetti said she quit her previous job in New Jersey in part because of Ohio’s generous funding.

“Ohio libraries are known and recognized nationwide for this support and for their innovative and cutting-edge library programs and services,” she wrote in an email to The Dispatch.

The pandemic exposed societal inequalities, one of which is broadband access, an area where libraries have helped by providing computers, she said.

“The needs of our communities have only been heightened by the pandemic, and now our communities need libraries more than ever, and Ohio libraries need funding that will enable them to continue the superior service for which they are nationally known,” Sacchetti said .

The library system’s financial data was not immediately available.

At the five-location Fairfield County District Library, two-thirds of the system’s annual budget of $ 4 million comes from government funds, director Becky Schaade said.

“That’s huge, of course. It’s by far the largest part of our budget,” she said.

In a time of need, she said, “It’s so difficult because we are part of people’s return to normalcy – coming in and reading and talking to people, letting mothers come in and look for their books.

“It is not time to cut library funding,” she continued. “We’re doing incredibly important work in Ohio. We have a very high quality of service … they’re wonderful things, but they’re not free. We don’t ask for more money, but we’d love to have a budget cut.”

Laura A. Bischoff, reporter for the USA Today Network Ohio Bureau, contributed to this story.

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@ DeanNarciso