Reed Middle School sixth-graders Ashlee Cook and Caitlin Cole said they come to the Hubbard Public Library "all the time" to do homework during the school year.
When school is out, the two friends participate in the library's summer programs. Ashlee said she would come to more programs if they were available, but state funding cuts forced the library to eliminate much of its children's programming.
Library director and head librarian Sherry Ault said budget cuts last June led to the loss of nine employees, which was 45 percent of the staff. The library's hours also were cut by a third.
Hubbard Community News / Marly Kosinski
Pat Joshua, of Hubbard, a member of the Friends of the Hubbard Library, chats with mascot Simon the Mouse during an open house at the library on April 11. Portraying Simon is Hubbard High School sophomore, Morgan Hardman.
Ault said at least 30 volunteers have stepped up to work in various capacities at the library to keep some of the programs going and help with day-to-day operations such as shelving books and stocking inventory. She said there always have been volunteers known as "Friends of the Library," but the library relies more heavily on volunteers since the funding cuts.
One of those volunteers is Michelle Murphy, who worked at the library for 10 years before leaving in 1997. She said she has been volunteering ever since.
"The library is a vital commodity to the community. You just have to walk in to see it," Murphy said.
She said she grew up at the library and would bring her daughter, who is now in her 20s, to the library all the time. Her daughter also was a library volunteer as a teenager, Murphy said.
The Hubbard Public Library held an open house April 11 to kick off National Library Week. Ault said the event also served as an informational forum regarding the 1.9-mill operating levy on the May 4 primary ballot.
She said the library has never had an operating levy, but the state budget cuts have made it impossible to maintain adequate services with state funding alone. If it passes, the levy would be the first contribution of local funds to the library since a 1-mill bond issue passed in 2000.
The bond issue raised $1.4 million for building renovations and has since been paid off, Ault said. The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $4.85 per month and it is a continual funding measure.
"When the state budget included massive cuts to libraries last year, patrons held read-ins and protests that resulted in libraries taking a smaller hit, but the cuts still were pretty deep," Ault said.
She said if the levy passes on May 4, the library's hours will be restored and the drive-up window will re-open, the materials budget will increase at least 30 percent, all children's programs will be restored, homebound service will be extended and public access computers will be kept current with high-speed Internet access and modern databases.
Ault said circulation at the Hubbard Public Library has steadily increased the past five years, while state funding has steadily decreased.
One program not affected by the cuts was Paws To Read, during which children in grades kindergarten and up read aloud to a registered therapy dog provided by K-9s for Compassion. The program is held once a month and was part of the open house.
"When a child reads to a parent, the parents tends to get impatient and correct the child if they make a mistake. The dogs are non-judgmental and the kids just love the dogs, so it's a great program," Ault said.
National Library Week is an annual celebration that highlights the value of libraries. This year's theme, "Communities thrive @ your library," is especially appropriate since library use is up nationwide, continuing a decade-long trend. Hubbard Library has seen usage increase in nearly every service area over the past few years. The Library also serves as a crucial technology hub for people in need of free Web access, job resources, self-help materials, meeting rooms and lifelong learning resources.