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Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

St. Marys library staff makes some budget cuts to paste more into book fund

By Janie Southard

The new book stacks at Ohio libraries could get sparse this year as state fundin. . .

The coming year appears to be a dark and stormy night for Ohio libraries including St. Marys Community Public Library, whose projected book budget is down 66 percent. The culprit: a funding shortfall at the state level.
But it's not as bad as it could be, according to Sue Heckler Pittman, St. Marys library director for the past eight years.
"When our fiscal officer (Bob Maurer) originally handed me the permanent appropriations ... there was just $10,839 available for books and materials for the year. That's an 83 percent cut to our budget," Pittman said Tuesday. "Our original budget request was for $64,000."
Getting another 16 percent for books was hard won as Pittman and her staff reviewed the budget to find other cuts.
"We've been working lean where pay is concerned and I'm doing all I can to avoid layoffs," she said, adding her staff is not only long-term employees and much needed but very well trained especially in the area of reference information.
But, obviously, the budget had to be trimmed in order to keep the doors open. Pittman began with the newsletter, which, after the February issue, will no longer be mailed to every home in St. Marys. It will continue to be printed quarterly but available online or by picking up a copy at the library.
Next on the chopping block were limiting conference and travel, asking scholars to donate their services for the "Let's Talk About It" series of book discussions. Ohio Library Council dues will be limited and the year's programming will be cut in half. Plus, sponsors will be asked for cash donations, such as for the summer reading program.
Her biggest disappointment is not being able to order things that fill a need.
"We probably cannot continue the Wall Street Journal even though it is heavily used," she said. "But it runs $199 a year."
The big ticket newspaper is the Sunday New York Times with its annual cost of $419.
"What we're doing is launching an Adopt A Magazine Renewal Campaign," she said. "So we're asking anyone interested to sign up for certain renewals and cut a check to the library so we can place the order."
They go through a library clearing house to order the magazines and make a one-time payment.
The shelving place card will reflect the name of the publication and the name of the sponsor, which is not a new concept. The library already has 13 magazines donated on a yearly basis.
If the library keeps all newspapers currently available the cost would be $800.
"I must say we are so appreciative that The Daily Standard and the Evening Leader are provided free to us by the publishers," Pittman said.
The director is hoping also to partner with local businesses, clubs and organizations. Presently, the library and St. Marys Rotary work together to place materials/books on health and wellness in the collection.
"We have right now on display books about leadership that were purchased by Prudential through a grant written by Don Glaser, local Prudential agent," she said.
One saving grace, Pittman said, is the Serve Every Ohioan consortium, through which items can be requested from other libraries.
"We average about 70 bags of materials going out and another 70 bags coming in on a daily basis," she said.
This program currently has an enviable turnaround time from a patron's request for a certain book/item until that item is ready for pickup in St. Marys. This service will continue but it may take a little longer to receive the item.
"I realize everyone is experiencing hard economic times. We're doing all we can to keep needed items available," she said. "The library is the one place you can get help."
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