The Mary E. Babcock Library and Alexandria Library could face cuts in hours and services, if a proposal by Gov. Ted Strickland to further cut library funding is approved.

The Mary E. Babcock Library and Alexandria Library could face cuts in hours and services, if a proposal by Gov. Ted Strickland to further cut library funding is approved.

Strickland proposed June 19 to cut state funding for public libraries by 30 percent, on top of a 20 percent reduction libraries are already facing. Library funding comes from 2.2 percent of the state's declining general revenue fund.

For the Licking County Library system, including the Babcock Library, the cuts would amount to $954,893 by the end of 2009.

"Public libraries, including your Licking County Library, will have to close or drastically cut hours and services in order to survive these cuts," wrote Steven Hawk, director of the Licking County Library, in a letter to library patrons on June 22.

He told The Independent Thursday that a vast majority of library operating funds comes from the state.

"Most libraries in the state of Ohio don't have local levies," he said. "A vast majority of funding is from the state and other revenue is made up from overdue fines."

In 2008, he said, the Licking County Library system, which includes six public libraries, received just over $3-million from the state.

"Without any cuts proposed by the governor, that amount will drop to $2.4-million," Hawk said. "If the governor's proposed 30 percent income reduction goes through, then we'd get $2.1-million this year and $1.6-million for next year."

Although the Mary E. Babcock Library was built with private funds, it's operated through the Licking County System.

"They built it and we operate it," Hawk said. "This is critical to all public libraries in the state of Ohio. Looking at a 50 percent reduction in six months is catastrophic."

Hawk and the Alexandria Public Library are asking patrons to contact their legislators, who will vote on the proposal within the next few days.

Hawk said Hottinger has responded, saying he's supportive to keep funding the way it is.

"That's encouraging," Hawk said.

Denise Shedloski, director of the Alexandria Library, wants local patrons to explain to their legislators about the role of the library in their community.

"Please, please contact our legislators and explain how much our library is our hub for our community."

The Alexandria Library is administered by a seven-member board of trustees appointed by the Northridge Board of Education. Since joining the Central Library Consortium in September 2006, the library expanded its resources, allowing patrons to access materials in its own collection as well from the more than 1.5-million items owned by the following public libraries: Fairfield County, Grandview Heights, Marysville, Pickaway County, Pickerington, Plain City Public Library and Wagnall's Memorial.

Shedloski said the Alexandria Library has some financial investments for a "rainy day," but that money is earmarked for the roof and building maintenance.

"If the governor's proposal is approved, we're looking at major cuts in hours, down to four days a week, major cuts in materials and our staffing will be cut," Shedloski said. "We don't want more than our fair share, but we want to help people and we can't if the governor takes our funds away from us. What the governor decides determines how far we have to go (with cuts)."

The library has a community room that's consistently in use by card clubs, an exercise club, adult programs, garden club and Friends of Captain Scott meetings.

"It's all free," Shedloski said. "We're the only place in town you can get Wi-Fi for free."

The Alexandria Library also hosts visits from 22 classes of elementary students from September through May.

"They visit with the children's librarian and have 15 minutes of story time and 15 minutes to choose materials," Shedloski added.

She noted the library's programming numbers are up, as is circulation and traffic through the door.

"A lot of folks are looking for ways to entertain families, whether it's with a book or movie," she said.

Hours at the Alexandria Library, 10 Maple Drive, are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

The Mary E. Babcock Library, 320 N. Main St., is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Shedloski encourages patrons to share their views with the following state officials: Strickland, 614-466-3555 or fax 614-466-9354; Sen. Bill Harris, president of the Senate, 614-466-8086 or SD19@ohr.state.oh.us; Sen. Tim Schaffer, 31st district, 614-466-5838 or SD31@senate.state.oh.us; Speaker of the House Armond Budish, 614-466-5441, fax: 614-719-0008, e-mail: district08@-ohr.state.oh.us; or Rep. Jay Hottinger, 71st District, phone: 614-466-1482, fax 614-719-3971 or e-mail SD71@ohr.state.oh.us.