While libraries throughout Ohio received a 5 percent funding cut as a result of the state budget approved last month, Delaware county’s libraries still stand to receive more state dollars than they did last year.
The new state budget allocates $2.6 million for Delaware county’s public libraries in 2012. This number, while a 5 percent decrease from 2011 funding, is 13 percent more than what the county’s libraries received in 2010.
The difference between Delaware and other counties, according to Chris Hall, administrator for Ohio Department of Taxation’s analysis division, is Delaware’s population growth.
Whereas public library funding was frozen from 2008 to 2010, the new budget takes a county’s population growth into account, Hall said.
“Because of so many years of pent-up growth, (Delaware) is finally getting it’s day in the sun with the increase,” he said.
While this may bode well for Delaware’s libraries for now, the cuts have led public library to steer away from relying on state funds.
State funds accounted for about 95 percent of Delaware’s libraries in 2008, according to records from Delaware County District Library, The Sunbury Community Library in Sunbury and Wornstaff Memorial Library in Ashley.
“We had very little outside funding of any kind,” said Wornstaff Memorial Director Elizabeth Barker. “We were basically dependent on money that came from the state.”
In 2010, the county libraries’ state funding was cut 25 percent compared to 2008 numbers.
“Those cuts were very hard to absorb,” said Delaware County District Director Mary Jane Santos. The most flexible expenditure was the materials budget, which Santos said was “slashed.”
“We don’t like to touch that,” she said. “We like to keep that a healthy percentage of our budget because frankly that’s why people come to our library.”
Yet in an effort to be frugal, Santos said the library restricted purchases to best-sellers and high-demand movies.
Barker said the Wornstaff Memorial Library stopped covering books with plastic, while Sunbury Community Library Director Chauncey Montgomery said maintenance contracts, magazine subscriptions and book vender agreements were renegotiated or replaced at his library.
None of the libraries approved employee raises and those employee who left were not replaced.
“It really crippled us because at that time, we were getting 95 percent of our funding from the state,” Montgomery said of the state cuts.
Consequently, after 2009, the local libraries began asking their communities for financial support via levy issues.
Santos said that before state funding “began slipping,” only 30 percent of state libraries had alternative revenue sources. Now, close to 75 percent receive both local and state funding, she said.
In 2010, the portion of state funding for the Delaware County District, Community and Wornstaff Memorial libraries had lowered to 25 percent, 46 percent and 62 percent, respectively. The rest was covered mostly by local taxpayers. (Donations, grants and library fees accounted for one- to three-percent of the libraries’ revenue.)
The library directors are weary of a state budget that prompts libraries to seek local funding.
“Delaware County is fortunate that we’ve had communities that can afford to fund local libraries,” said Montgomery. “But once you get into Central Ohio and eastern parts of the state, there are communities that do not have the tax base to support local libraries.”
Barker added that it could put “much more of an emphasis on have and have nots,” which contradicts the mission of public libraries. By basing funding on growth, it disadvantage the low-income populations, for which libraries are particularly critical, she said.
Montgomery said he would like to see the state eventually restore its funding.
“It plays a critical role,” he said. “My hope is that as the state gets spending under control, it can look back on library funding and restore some of what they’ve cut, if not all of it.”
In the meantime, Delaware’s local libraries are looking to further diversify funding by securing grants, streamlining operations, and seeking charitable donations, Montgomery said.