Asking for more money in a down economy is never easy. But for the Columbus Metropolitan Library system, it's absolutely necessary, according to executive director Patrick Losinski.

Asking for more money in a down economy is never easy. But for the Columbus Metropolitan Library system, 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 per year for every $100,000 of assessed property valuation. The 0.6-mill increase would mean an additional $63 more 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.

Absentee voting in the county begins Sept. 28. The countywide levy will not appear on ballots of voters who live in other library districts such as Bexley, Upper Arlington, Worthington, Grandview or Westerville. While some West Siders will vote on the Southwest Public Libraries' levy, others live in the Columbus library district.

Losinski said the library has 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 less staff to deal with more customers, he said. The system reduced staff by 184 full-time employees since 2003, cut the materials budget "significantly" and almost eliminated any technology upgrades. Furthermore, there have been reductions in hours for the remaining staff, mandatory pay cuts for salaried staff in 2009 and delays in maintenance.

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

Lara Oliver, who's organizing the volunteer campaign for the levy, said the levy is essential. The library is more than a place to borrow books and DVDs, she said. For example, the system continued job help centers this year, 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."