Mansfield: State cuts would 'devastate' libraries
Gov. Ted Strickland announced last Friday that he would recommend that the public library fund be cut by $227.3-million to help fill the $3.2-billion gap in the state budget that must be passed by June 30.
That would be a nearly 30-percent cut in state funding, on top of a 20 percent reduction experienced in recent years because library funding comes from 2.22 percent of the state's declining general fund.
For the 70 percent of Ohio libraries funded only by state money, that will mean a 50-percent reduction in revenues and would likely result in the closing of branches and reductions in hours and programming, said Worthington
Libraries Director Meribah Mansfield.
"This would be devastating for libraries all over the state," she said.
Even libraries like Worthington, which is supported by local property taxes, will be forced to make changes, she said.
Last year, the Worthington Libraries received $2.6-million in state funds. If the biennial budget is approved with the proposed cuts, Worthington would receive $1.4-million next year.
Next year's total budget is expected to be $9.3-million.
"I can't say what cuts we would make here," Mansfield said. "The board would have to do that with public input."
The reductions come at a time when people are turning to their libraries in record numbers to help with job searches, she said.
People are using the libraries' high-speed Internet and are finding help writing resumes, applying for unemployment, and searching for job postings.
"We're the safety net, people are using us as an information referral service," Mansfield said. "Our use is way up, our computer use is phenomenal."
Worthington and other libraries are sending patrons strongly worded e-mails urging them to contact state senators and representatives to ask them to make sure the library cuts are not part of the new state budget.
The Worthington Libraries Web site provides links for e-mails to elected officials.