The Southwest Public Libraries board of trustees met in special session Thursday to discuss options should the legislature approve Gov. Ted Strickland's proposal to slash $200-million from the state's Public Library Fund.

The Southwest Public Libraries board of trustees met in special session Thursday to discuss options should the legislature approve Gov. Ted Strickland's proposal to slash $200-million from the state's Public Library Fund.

"A cut of this magnitude would erase 50 percent of SPL's funding," a statement from library spokeswoman Amy Shaw said.

Funding would go from a 2008 level of $4,058,000 to a 2010 projected level of $2,100,000.

SPL receives 95 percent of its funding from the state.

The board of trustees met to agree on a contingency plan in case the cuts become reality.

"SPL has joined all public libraries in Ohio in forcefully rejecting Gov. Strickland's proposal and pointing out that under the current funding formula, public libraries have already experienced a 20-percent decline in funding due to declining state tax revenues attributable to the weak economy," according to Shaw.

Board members looked at three options for operating its two locations, the Grove City Library and the Westland Area Library in the Lincoln Village Shopping Center.

Those options included:

Closing one of the facilities completely. Closing each facility for six months at a time. Operating each facility three days a week, one shift a day, with one crew of employees.
"After discussion, the board of trustees decided that to be fair to the entire district that the last option would be adopted in the event of massive cuts from the state of Ohio," Shaw said.

Library director Mark M. Shaw noted that SPL has about $550,000 in annual fixed expenses and that after covering those expenses there would not be enough resources to operate more than one facility at a time.

In addition, children's programming would have to be eliminated, the Outreach Department, which delivers library materials to the homebound, would be abolished and purchases of new library materials would be severely curtailed.

"We certainly hope it doesn't come to this," Mark Shaw said in a prepared statement. "Our patrons have demonstrated a tremendous outpouring of support for us by contacting legislators and the governor's office throughout the past week to demonstrate the value that the library brings to their community.

"We are deeply grateful for their support."

He also expressed gratitude "for the unwavering support" of state Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City. She has been, he said, "a strong library supporter dating back over two decades and she has been a forceful opponent of Gov. Strickland's proposal over the past week."

"The fate of SPL and most other Ohio public libraries is now in the hands of the Ohio House-Senate conference committee as it tries to iron out an agreement on the budget for the biennium that begins on July 1," Amy Shaw said in the announcement.

In addition, after discussing the ramifications of a 50-percent cut in funding, the board of trustees decided to take a precautionary first step in asking the voters to approve a 1-mill operating levy in the November general election.

State law requires the library to officially ask the Franklin County auditor to certify how much would be collected by a 1-mill levy.

"It is important to note that this is not approval of a levy request but merely the first step," Amy Shaw said.

Board members want to keep all options open in the event the state follows through with Strickland's plan to cut library funding.

"The SPL board of trustees and administration will be closely following the progress of the conference committee over the next few days," Amy Shaw said.