Library may face funding shortfall

With the possibility of a shortfall in state funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Barbara S. McGary, executive director of the James V. Brown Library, told the library’s trustees recently that it is important they communicate with state elected officials urging them to address the issue.

Acknowledging a statement by Rick Mirabito, county commissioner and a member of the libary board, that county funding for the local library will likely remain level this year, McGary said that was important because the state is talking about funding only five of the 12 months.

“We had to do all of our formal applications and plans this last month to submit to the Office of Commonwealth Libraries for five months of the 12-month budget. That is all that was approved,” she said.

“But the fear is that that’s all we will receive. And that would totally set us back … that would be like a $600,000 shortfall,” she said, adding that the

library will not be notified of the state’s final decision until next month.

McGary pointed out that in 2003 when funding was cut by 50 percent, it took the library until 2010 to get to the level that they were in 2003.

“If they cut us significantly, it’s going to be so hard to get back to where we are now,” she said.

“If that’s taken away or significantly reduced, we will not be able to have the amazing library that we have now. We will not be able to connect with the community in the way we are now. It will deeply, deeply hurt us,” McGary shared.

Arguing that budgets are shaped by those who have political power, McGary said, “Public libraries do not have that power, they really don’t. Everything we do is grassroots.”

“What’s really important right now is for our state representatives to go to bat for us,” she added, suggesting board members call local lawmakers “and say it’s really important now to stand up for libraries, because we need them to be our voice.”

McGary spoke about the usage of the library this year compared to last year.

Physical visits of library patrons for September of 2019 totalled almost 10,000, while this year, during the pandemic, the number had fallen to 5,000, or half of last year’s total. Under lending, the total for last year was 27,000 items compared to 18,500 this year. Computer usage was down from 5,700 to 4,000 for this year.

In other business, the board was informed by Kristin Caringi, chief financial and operations officer, that the library had submitted the PPE loan forgiveness application to the bank and that it is expected that it will be accepted at 100 percent forgiveness. Caringi said if that is approved the $277,700 loan will become a grant.

Paycheck protection loans were given to small businesses during the shutdown earlier this year in order to keep their employees on the payroll. Forgiveness of the loans is dependent on businesses meeting all the criteria.

The board also approved a resolution waiving the standards for hours and collection expenditure obligations. The waiver was part of the plan for use of state aid.

The trustees meet next at noon Nov. 19.


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