Thursday, July 2, 2009

An update from the Ohio Library Council

The Ohio Library Council sent out an email update on the budget situation just before noon today. Here's what it says:

  • OLC staff has been in daily communication - sometimes twice a day - with the public library directors across the state regarding the state budget and public library funding. However, it's been several days since we have communicated directly with the general membership and library trustees.

    Here's what we know:

    · Legislators have been listening to their constituents and are working very hard to minimize any funding cuts to public libraries.

    · Public libraries MAY experience some funding cut but every indication is that it will not be near the 30% cut proposed by the Governor.

    · The General Assembly approved an interim budget through July 7, and public library funding continues at 2.22% of the state's general tax revenue and with no cuts at this time.

    · The House already has introduced a resolution to allow for a second budget extension through July 14, if it appears the 2010-11 budget cannot be approved by July 7.

    Here's what we don't know:

    · How much of a cut, if any, public libraries will experience in the biennium budget.

    · When the biennium budget will be approved.

    · If there are issues besides slot machines that are still unresolved.

    While things may appear to be relatively calm right now, a lot of activity is going on behind the scenes. This is a normal part of the budget process. The OLC's work continues -- just in a less public arena. OLC staff and our contacts in the legislature and the Governor's office are in constant communication. All parties have been receptive to our message and the discussions have been productive.

    It's important for you to know that we have told library directors that they should work with their staffs and boards to determine the impact additional funding cuts will have on library services and operations. You may receive requests from your managers or directors to supply information to help with this process. This is not being done to cause panic but to show preparedness. Your administration will need your understanding and support as this is a difficult process for everyone.

    We will continue to keep you as informed. Please watch your e-mail and the OLC Web site for updates. Thank you again for your continued support.

    Doug Evans
    Executive Director
    Ohio Library Council

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How many more years of service?

It was a pleasant surprise to see Regina Brett's column on earlier this week. Evelyn Janoch, Adult Services Manager at Rocky River Public Library took over and gave five great reasons why Ohioans should not let Governor Strickland shutter so many of the state's libraries with his budget proposal.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Evelyn take over Regina Brett's column because Evelyn was my boss at RRPL for 3½ years while I worked as a substitute reference librarian there while pursuing my MLS at Kent State.

Having worked with Evelyn so long -- but only for a fraction of her 32 years of library service -- I can tell you she could come up with 500 reasons why Ohioans should not let Governor Strickland shutter the state's libraries. A selfish one would be the recommendation she put in for me when I interviewed for the position I hold today as adult reference librarian at Euclid Public Library. I have it on good authority that Evelyn told my soon-to-be new boss Paul Gallmeier, "Oh, Paul, please hire him."

Maybe that was the final turn of the key in the lock for me. Whatever the case, I'm still at Euclid Public Library 7½ years later. Evelyn's still at RRPL 7½ year later helping people fill out unemployment cards, helping people find a way to repair their cars, helping young men stay on the straight and narrow path which leads them to becoming outstanding Marines, helping homebound patrons receive their books, and helping a husband fulfill a wish for his wife.

Helping. That's what Evelyn Janoch has been doing for people for 32 years. That's what librarians have been doing all across Ohio. That's what librarians want to continue to do for 32 more years, and 32 years beyond that.

Let's hope our politicians can help us continue to do it.

My first library home won't be the same

Twelve years ago I started my library career at the Lakewood Public Library.

If Governor Strickland's proposed budget passes next week there will probably be no one writing that in 12 years. Or 11 years. Or 10 years. Or even one year.

According to Lakewood Public Library director Ken Warren, the proposed budget cuts for libraries would have a "catastrophic" effect on my original library workplace. Warren told the Lakewood Sun Post that the library currently has fewer employees than it did in 2004, this despite a bigger building that opened just last year. More cuts will just be a killer for LPL.

LPL, like every other library, will suffer from reductions just about everywhere you can think of should the budget pass as the governor proposes -- staff layoffs and furloughs, programming cuts, fewer materials, reduced hours.

This at a library ranked fifth in the nation in its size in the most recent HAPLR Index. (Hey, Lakewood, at least I got something on you since my own library is two spots ahead of yours!)

There'd be no room even to add a 20-hour-a-week minimum-wage page such as I was in the fall of 1997. Since then I've moved into the circulation department at Lakewood, then onto the reference desks at Rocky River Public Library and Lorain County Community College before finishing my MLS at Kent State and starting in my current position as an adult reference librarian at Euclid Public Library. Up the ladder, maybe not all the way, but at least partway, rung by rung. That ladder could be gone in a week.

Ken Warren will soon be retiring from the post he's held for 25 years. He doesn't have to stand up for libraries anymore. He could go gentle into that good night. But not him. He was front and center at the library rally held on the steps of Cleveland Public Library a week ago. In the best 30 seconds of the rally, he took the podium and railed at our political leaders, calling it "insanity" to shut libraries down. I was fortunate enough to make it to Mr. Warren's retirement party in Lakewood later that night and thank him for giving me my start in libraries more than a decade ago.

Hopefully that ladder will still be there for someone else to start climbing.

Portage County District Library faces closures, layoffs

On the chopping block -- libraries in Streetsboro, Randolph, and Windham. They are branches of the Portage County District Library.

The library system could also cut staffing in half, from 70 positions to 35.

These possibilities were outlined by PCDL director Cecilia Swanson at a June 25 board meeting. The system would also reduce hours at its remaining three branches in Garrettsville, Aurora, and Brimfield.

That's just one system in the state. Hundreds more will be having meetings similar to PCDL's next emergency board meeting, which will be July 7 at 4:30 p.m., right about the same time Ohio's temporary budget extension comes to an end.

Politicians' strategy: Librarians go SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?

If you believe some of the Internet chatter, deciding on Ohio's state budget has turned to the political game-playing part.

Maybe even dirty game-playing.

Over at Save Ohio Libraries, two posters call for library supporters to be even more vocal this week, arguing that the seven-day temporary budget is just a way to calm people down in hopes that the library rally quiets down. Greg Jones of Blacks 4 Barack espouses this theory. Johnathon of the newly created and quite fantastic Mid-Coast Perspective agrees with Greg, calling the delay "par for the course" on the Save Ohio Libraries blog.

Another poster on Save Ohio Libraries posted the following:

This afternoon I called Gov. Strickland’s office and his secretary informed me that they were keeping track of the number of calls AND the county of residence of the callers concerned about the Ohio Library Fund cuts. Strickland believes in the Ohio political philosophy that the difference in statewide races for Democrats is made in rural opinions rather than urban turnout; thus he will not be swayed by only receiving calls exclusively from urban counties. So, if you are in or if you know anyone that lives in SE or central Ohio rural counties, please ask them to contact Gov. Strickland and let their voice be heard.

The one-week temporary budget passed the House 94-2, with Lakewood Democrat Michael Skindell and Napoleon Republican Lynn Wachtmann the two. Skindell was quoted in The Plain Dealer as saying the temporary budget "offers despair, not hope." Wachtmann, a library supporter, is on record as offering a solution for the proposed budget cuts -- a 5 to 7% across-the-board budget reduction for all state departments.

It's been fairly quiet this week on the library front. Perhaps we think our work is done. Right now it appears that the main stumbling block is Gov. Strickland's slots proposal. Another temporary budget extension is in play.

Gov. Strickland's Facebook page has quieted down, with only 14 posts since Tuesday morning. Perhaps Greg Jones and Jonathan are right. Maybe the strategy is delay things so library supporters go away. The Ohio Library Council's latest update on the situation is from two days ago. It states in part:

The OLC is working very closely with the legislature and the Governor's office on the library funding issue. Depending on the progress of the budget negotiations, libraries may need to re-energize their efforts to mobilize patrons.

Here's predicting we hear that call from OLC.

Friday, June 26, 2009

OLC responds to the governor

The Ohio Library Council has drafted a response to Governor Strickland's earlier open letter:

It appears that Governor Strickland has chosen to ignore the public outcry
supporting Ohio's public libraries and is sticking to his original proposal to
slash public library funding by 30% in each of the next two years. His proposed
cuts are in addition to the 20% decrease already experienced by public libraries
due to decreases in tax revenues.

Public libraries recognize that these are tough times and have been willing to shoulder their fair share of the burden. However, an additional 30% is not a fair share.

The OLC appreciates the fact that Governor recognizes the value of the public libraries in this state but his continued stance on cutting library funding will be

The OLC hopes the General Assembly has heard the voice of Ohioans supporting public libraries and we strongly urge them to appropriately represent their constituents' voices in the budget process.

And now a word from your governor

Governor Strickland is standing by his budget that takes away half the funding for Ohio's libraries, shuttering many of them. Here's a statement recently posted on his website:

"Our public libraries serve an important role in the lives of Ohio children and adults. The funding reduction faced by our libraries is one that will also be experienced by state government programs across the board.

My framework to balance the state budget includes a reduction in state aid to libraries in order to minimize the impact of $2.43 billion in spending reductions that will impact services for our most vulnerable, especially children, the elderly and disabled. These cuts will help to address the $3.2 billion budget gap without raising taxes on Ohio families and businesses. The framework reduces the size of government in line with the shrinking economy, and keeps our commitment to the classroom reforms that will better prepare Ohio students for jobs. All this will position Ohio for job growth and economic recovery.

Without doubt, what I have outlined requires tough choices. Many of the services that Ohioans have come to rely on will have to be reduced, and some suspended. This is not because those services are not worthy. It is because state government has to prioritize limited resources to make it through this recession. Every day, similar decisions are being made around countless kitchen tables and shop floors throughout Ohio.

I believe that libraries provide important services to members of our community. While many of us turn to our libraries for book clubs, summer reading and research projects, Ohioans also utilize the local library as a place to find free high speed internet access and to receive assistance with finding a job or filing their taxes. I am committed to the goal and vision of our libraries and the services they provide. During these difficult economic times, it is important that our libraries remain a haven for individuals to gather and utilize resources. That’s why my framework commits $531 million in funding for our libraries over the next biennium.

All Ohioans are making shared sacrifices. But I have faith that, with the commitment of our community members, we will be able to overcome today’s challenges and continue working to build a stronger, better Ohio."

I disagree that Gov. Strickland is making a tough choice. I think he's making an easy choice -- just slash whatever he sees. The more he can take from something, the better. Instead of thinking about what the budget cuts will cause, such as destruction of Ohio's public library services, he's thinking solely of the budget.

Certainly Ohio's libraries shouldn't be immune to cuts. But they shouldn't be shuttered, which is what this proposal does to them, mostly the rural libraries. Especially hard hit will be southeast Ohio. Northwest Ohio might not fare too much better.

You can download the governor's letter here, though I don't know why you would want to.