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Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Library cutting hours, workers' pay

Local officials make changes in response to shrinking state funds

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - The community library will be closed on Fridays and the entire staff will take a 12 percent pay cut beginning next week due to a 30 percent cut in state funding for the next two years.
"It's already been a tough year," said Susan Heckler Pittman, executive director of the St. Marys Community Public Library. "We've already cut book and materials purchases. All that was left was the staff."
Each staff member's workweek has been cut by five hours in addition to the Friday closing.
"The good thing is no one who was eligible had to lose insurance coverage, vacation or sick leave," Treasurer Bob Maurer pointed out. "And we did not have to lay anyone off."
The staff was notified at their in-service in July that cuts were coming.
"It was not a surprise for them and I think probably they were relieved when the work schedule came out last week," Pittman said of the staff of 16.
The library board of governors approved the recommendations to cut hours and close on Fridays at the regular board meeting last week. Maurer observed it was a "difficult step for everyone but necessary."
"We figured it is the best way we could to get the additional $24,000 this year and $48,000 in 2010. I worked backwards to figure it all and that's how we got the 12 percent cut across the board," Maurer said.
Pittman explained that the daily head count the staff does turned up Friday as the least busy day at the library, although, certainly there are busy times every day.
"I think that's because during the school year the kids typically have (activities) on Friday nights," she said, adding that Saturday is the busiest day. "So it seemed the fewest patron would be affected if we close on Fridays, although a couple organizations will have to rearrange their monthly meetings."
Making the best of a distressing situation, the director said she's pleased that all the staff remains so that patrons can expect the same expertise and assistance. Those people out of work and hunting jobs will still have access to the Internet.
"Plus we'll maintain our entertainment CDs and audiobooks ... A lot of people can't afford to go to video stores any more," she said.
Maurer, who also is treasurer of the Rockford library, said Rockford's staff of six also took a 12 percent pay cut. That library will be closed on Saturdays beginning next week to help offset its tight budget.
Board members of the Mercer County Library in Celina, which includes branches in Mendon, Chickasaw and St. Henry, recently proposed putting a half mill operating levy on the November general election ballot to help with its funding problems. That library already has cut staff time and operational hours, by not opening until 10 a.m. each day and opening for only three hours on Saturdays.
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