The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County has been forced to cut back its hours, due to reduced state funding. The process by which the library determined how to implement the cutbacks is illustrative of its continuing commitment to serve Valley residents.
When I visited with library director Carlton Sears in his office this summer when the reductions were announced, he showed me a chart of numbers. Each library branch tracks the number of visiting patrons during each hour of the day. All of these numbers were laid out in front of Sears, and this data was used to pick the branches' least trafficked times for cutbacks.
Funding for Ohio’s libraries is determined by a formula that ties a percentage of the state’s general revenues. Revenues have plunged in the current economy, leaving libraries wondering what lies ahead. Compared with 2008 funding levels, 20% of state revenue has been lost since January of 2009. Another 30% cut has been proposed on top of that for this year, with further expected cuts of 47% in 2010 and 45% in 2011.
West Side residents, faced with the prospect of their branch's closing, took matters into their own hands to raise money to directly support the library. We can all join together and approve the $1 million, five-year levy on the November 3 ballot.
In these times of economic uncertainty and record unemployment, our libraries are needed more than ever, to support those pursuing continuing education and those using the library's facilities to search for jobs. Check the latest hours for your branch, and consider donating to the library if you can.
The library is managing their part responsibly by ensuring it's available when we use it the most. It's time for us to do our part in keeping the lights on.