Reduced Funding Jeopardizes Library’s Future, Quality Of Life Here
Based on my meeting with the Fulton County commissioners, it is my understanding that the Fulton County contribution to the library’s budget will be cut by $7,500, or 50 percent, for 2010.
In order for libraries to receive state money in Pennsylvania, each library must spend a minimum of $5 per capita in local money. This money comes from the county, local municipalities and fundraising. Annual expenditures of local money must equal or exceed the amount spent in the previous year. In addition, money that comes from the local government cannot decrease from the previous year. Because county aid was cut by 50 percent for 2010, the Fulton County Library may lose state aid in 2011. It is unwise to cut county spending in an area that curtails matching state funds coming into the county economy.
In 2009, state aid accounted for approximately 30 percent of the library’s operating budget of $239,000. The budget for 2010 has been reduced to $181,300 by cutting hours, employee salaries, and the book budget. The library will need to raise at least $20,000 in local money in order to balance this reduced budget. Statefunded libraries in Pennsylvania must provide free services, including free lending of books and free Internet services to residents in their area of service, so charging patrons for library cards or Internet use is not an option.
Fulton County now ranks last among eighth-class counties in the state in terms of the amount of per-capita support it receives from its local government. The average percentage of local government support for libraries in Pennsylvania is 64 percent. That amount for Fulton County in 2010 will be 4 percent.
If we cannot raise additional money locally, further curtailments will need to be made. These could include closing the Hustontown Branch Library, terminating the children’s summer reading programs, reducing preschool story times, further reducing hours, cutting back on coordination with the local schools, eliminating rotating collections to senior centers, reducing the number of computer classes and help given with resumes and job searches, eliminating the provision of job training for youths and older adults, raising rent to the Historical Society, further reducing wages for the library’s 10 employees, and closing on Saturdays and evenings. While we will try to continue to have weekly children’s programming in Needmore, efforts to establish a branch in Needmore or Warfordsburg have been put on hold due to the cuts to library funding.
It is unfortunate that library services must be reduced at this time when it is being used more than ever due to a struggling economy. The number of books, DVDs, audio books and music CDs checked out increased by more than 28 percent in November compared with the same month last year. There were similar increases in circulation and the number of people using the library in October. People are coming in to write resumes, to apply for unemployment, to attend meetings, to write school reports and to bring their children to story times. These state and local cuts to library funding will reduce access at a time when people need it most, and the county cuts put the future of the Fulton County Library in jeopardy.
The return on the investment that the library provides to the citizens of Fulton County is real in terms of state matching funding, job placement and career resources, early childhood learning and socialization, support to teachers and homeschoolers, free programming, lifelong learning and self-education. The library is a place where the whole community can come together to explore, reason, wonder and share their hopes and dreams during these difficult times. It is vital to the well-being and quality of life in Fulton County.