Asking for more money in a down economy is never easy.

Asking for more money in a down economy is never easy.

For the Columbus Metropolitan Library system, however, it's absolutely necessary, according to executive director Patrick Losinski.

The library is seeking a 2.8-mill property-tax levy on the Nov. 2 ballot in an effort to restore the system's annual estimated budget to about $58-million. That figure includes anticipated state funding.

"I think in today's economy, every dollar's precious and we all understand that," Losinski said.

The levy, which will appear on the ballot as Issue 4, would replace a 2.2-mill levy that expires this year. It would cost Franklin County residents a total of $86 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property valuation. The 0.6-mill increase would mean an additional $63 per year. The levy would give residents access to 3-million items in the system, Losinski said.

"I think the library has a profound sense of the economic environment we're in, particularly because we see the people who are using the library now, as our business is up," he said.

Early voting in Franklin County began Sept. 28. The countywide levy will not appear on ballots of voters who live in other library districts, such as Bexley, Upper Arlington, Worthington, Southwest (Grove City area), Grandview or Westerville.

Losinski said library officials have demonstrated good fiscal stewardship, as state funding has been cut back to mid-1990s levels.

Leaders have cut the budget to the bone, relying on fewer employees to serve more customers, he said.

The system reduced its staff by 184 full-time employees since 2003, cut the materials budget "significantly" and almost eliminated any technology upgrades, he said.

Furthermore, there have been reductions in hours for the remaining employees, mandatory pay cuts for salaried staff members in 2009 and delays in maintenance.

"There's been a lot of reduction, and we certainly hear it from the public," he said. "And we have fewer materials and staff to assist them."

Lara Oliver, who is organizing the volunteer campaign for the levy, said the levy is essential to the library's future.

The library is much more than a place to read quietly and borrow books and DVDs, she said. For example, the system continued job-help centers this year to help people look for work and seek resources, she said.

"The library has always been a vital resource for the community and now more so because of our current economic situation," she said. "So librarians are helping people access job information, unemployment benefits, whatever they need to get by in today's economy."