As part of Gov. Kasich’s proposed 2018-2019 state budget, Ohio’s public libraries could see sharp decline in funding.
The two-year budget proposal, which is now in front of the state legislature, would slash $7 million from the state’s Public Library Fund next year.
However, this is nothing new for Ohio’s public libraries as state funding has been dwindling for the community service centers throughout much of the first two decades of the 21st century.
Despite the proposed reduction to the state’s PLF, Kasich believes that libraries are an integral part of communities, especially in areas where residents’ interenet access is limited.
“Everybody doesn’t have internet services,” he previously told the media. “People at the bottom of the income ladder, they may have a smart phone, but they may not have a lot of the technology that they need.”
Ohio’s public libraries are funded primarily at the state level to ensure access, equal funding and internet access for Ohioans.
If Kasich’s proposed cuts for the upcoming fiscal years be approved, the smaller PLF will affect area libaries differently.
“After so many years of underfunding, there are only so many ways to balance a budget with less,” director of Cardington-Lincoln Public Library Lisa Murray said. “We can eliminate more service hours which affects access for patrons and the livelihood of library workers. We can buy fewer materials, offer fewer programs and defer technology upgrades which affect our quality of service. We can defer maintenance projects which creates more costly repairs in the long run, affects the appearance of the building, and creates safety issues. We have done all these things and more, yet each year we have to find a new way to ensure the budget stays balanced.”
Service at the Mount Gilead Public Library will not likely change much, except director of Mount Gilead Public Library Mike Kirk will spend less on inventory and community programs.
“By itself it (the PLF cut) probably will have little affect on library operations,” said director of Mount Gilead Public Library Mike Kirk. “It will mean more tightening of the belt. It means less books and movies can be purchased and fewer programs can be offered. The problem is that libraries across the state, including Mount Gilead, have never fully recovered from previous reductions of the PLF. In 1999, the library received approximately $100,000 more than in 2016.”
Governor Kasich’s proposal would cut state funding to Ohio’s public libraries by more than $7 million in FY 2018 by reducing the Public Library Fund (PLF) from 1.7 percent of the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) to 1.66 percent of the GRF. In terms of Mount Gilead’s budget, it would mean approximately $8,000 less.
“Before the passage of the levy in November, Mount Gilead Public Library depended exclusively on the PLF,” Kirk continued. “Even with the proceeds from the levy, the majority of the library’s revenue will still be the PLF.”
While some libraries receive money through property tax levies, 58 public libraries in Ohio do not have that source of support. The remaining libraries, without passed levies, rely on the PLF for funding.
Ohio has the highest library use per capita in the United States; more than 8.7 million Ohioans are library cardholders, which is nearly 80 percent of the population.
Cardington-Lincoln Public Library director Lisa Murray shared her concerns about the proposed reduction in the PLF, which currently accounts for 92 percent of the library’s funding.
“Public library funding is tied to the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and therefore ebbs and flows with the economy,” she said. “Economic decline since 2001, combined with additional reductions imposed on the PLF, has left the library operating at the same level of funding as 1997. Further cuts would have a negative impact on Cardington. I am advocating against this cut because it is time for the legislature to protect the PLF and return funding to libraries. The issue with public library funding is the cumulative effect of 15 years of declining revenue.”
Currently, no other state gives as much government funding per capita as Ohio.
Murray says that large funding pool has allowed Ohioans access to any library in the state regardless of where they live.
“It provides equal funding that ensures a high standard of library service to citizens in all counties, regardless of economic factors,” she said. “It even provides access to the Internet at each library because of the PLF-funded Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN).”
“Consolidation and collaboration are also being emphasized in recent legislative actions. Libraries have always been big collaborators, with one another and with others,” she continued. “But occasionally I hear talk of legislating counties to consolidate their independent libraries into a single library system. Ignore the hurdles wrapped in the details of something like this and assume this were to be done. It would be far more devastating to the small rural independent library than underfunding. The result, among other changes, would likely be a central library with satellite locations offering far fewer services (if any) than communities are currently accustom. On the other hand, a county library system allows more flexibility to place services where they are most needed in a county.”
The state legislature is set to decide on the details of Kasich’s budget in the coming weeks. For more details visit: http://cardingtonlibrary.org/content/state-budget-may-further-reduce-library-funding.
The Mount Gilead Library, along with other area libraries, could face cutbacks in funding if Kasich’s budget proposal is approved.
Reach Jones at 419-946-3010 or at firstname.lastname@example.org