Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to reduce public library funding would have devastating effects on the seven-library system in Trumbull County, their directors are saying.
The recent announcement that nearly half the funding allocated to Ohio's 251 library systems would be removed to help fill the more than $1 billion state budget shortfall would mean reduced or discontinuation of services, reduced hours and in some cases, closure, they said.
''These cuts would certainly force significant reductions in services at all libraries and would make it nearly impossible for some of our local libraries to remain open,'' said James Wilkins, director, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library.
And it's happening at a time when libraries are seeing a resurgence in use and increased circulation. Due mainly to a slumping economy, families looking at ways to cut costs are turning to libraries, a free source of entertainment for their video, music and reading needs.
Perhaps of greater importance now are the children's programming, reference, computer and job and unemployment assistance services libraries provide. Directors across Trumbull are reporting an average usage increase of about 30 percent.
''We do a lot of hands-on and have a lot of one-on-one contact with our patrons,'' McCrone said. ''They're not going to have this source anymore. And if they do, how much time will we have to help that person if we're running on 50 percent of staff?''
Ohio's public libraries primarily are funded through the public library fund, which accounts for 2.2 percent of the state's general tax revenue. The cuts proposed by the governor's office would mean more than a 50 percent reduction for many of the state's libraries, their directors say.
In dollars, that means the fund would see a $227 million reduction over the next two years.
The reduction likely would happen in August, giving directors a more clear picture on their future.
For now, they are hesitant to predict what could happen, except to anticipate reduced services and in the worst-case scenario, library closings.
''There is no way we can be open 40 hours a week. What number is between, I can't venture a guess,'' said Sherry Ault, director of Hubbard Public Library, which would see the $646,000 it gets cut in half.
''We don't yet know how it will affect us,'' said Claire Hoffman, director of the Liberty Public Library. ''We'll just have to wait and see what happens,'' she said.
In Warren, Wilkins said said he'll begin looking at different scenarios, including reduced hours, layoffs and branch closings.
In Mahoning County, the system already is facing a $1.9 million shortfall because state allocations are down. If the cuts are approved, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County would lose about $3.5 million in the next two years.
The result would be the system would be forced to close most branches. An analysis of the system's budget shows it would be able to operate the main library and two of the branches in Boardman, Austintown or Poland.