Libraries face tight budgets, but few cuts

Traditionally, when the economy slows down, the need for services at public libraries picks up. Unfortunately, with library funding coming mainly from property taxes, economic slow downs mean library budgets may take a hit, causing decreases in services or staff, just when they need them most.According to published reports, many of the larger libraries throughout the state are doing just that. The Indianapolis library officials announced at the end of September a cut in hours of operation by 26 percent and a loss of 35 to 40 jobs.The Allen County libraries have cut the equivalent of 32 full-time jobs over the last two years and expect to lose $1.7 million from their budget for 2011 due to property tax caps, and losses in income tax revenue. What does this mean for Whitley County libraries?“We know our budget is going to be cut next year,” said Janet Scank, Peabody Public Library director, “(but) we plan to cut services as little as possible.”Scank noted most of their budget goes to staff, and with library use rising she says, “We’re so busy, we need to hire, not let people go.”Renee Wozniak, director of the South Whitley Public Library says the South Whitley Library budget stayed the same. “We’ve planned far enough ahead that we’re O.K.,” Wozniak said. “We’re not increasing, but we’re not cutting (hours and services.)”Carol Scherer, director at the Churubusco Public Library expressed cautious optimism as well, “As far as we know at this time, we’re O.K.”Scherer said their budget has actually increased a small amount. With two retiring by the end of the year, they have replacements for them at this point.The Peabody Public Library is undergoing extensive remodeling at this time, which Scank knows raises questions with patrons concerned about spending during the economic downturn.She stresses the money being used for the construction comes from funds “(which) can only be spent on capital improvements. It is against the law to spend it otherwise.” This money comes from bond money set aside for this purpose, the library capital projects fund and the library improvement reserve fund, as well as donations.Whitley County residents have historically been staunch supporters of their libraries.In 2003, the South Whitley Library board was seeking a grant for expansion of the library. When the request originally was denied, the community raised over $100,000 in six weeks and the grant request was approved.The Churubusco Public Library suffered fires not once but three times, rising from the ashes most recently in 1979 at their present location.The Peabody Public Library in Columbia City, the new building completed in 1999, had 1,000 children sign up for its first summer reading program at the new location.“We have good people in Whitley County,” Scherer said.