By Chauncey Montgomery
Community Library Director
One would think that as Ohio recovers from its recent economic challenges that the state would begin to increase or at least maintain its support of public libraries. Nevertheless, Ohio’s libraries continue to see state support erode.
Like other local governments, public libraries in Ohio receive state support through a special fund called the Public Library Fund (PLF). Until 2009, Community Library received 95 percent of its funding from the PLF. Throughout the past decade the PLF was frozen and even reduced, resulting in a 23 percent reduction in state support to Community Library.
State support is not getting better. In the most current state budget, library support was reduced from 1.97 percent to 1.66 percent. Additionally, as the state’s income tax is reduced, so are the funds that go into the PLF. Efforts to convince legislators to increase funds have been fruitless, and as a result 2014 PLF revenue is at 1996 levels. Each year it becomes more apparent that the volatility and abatement of the PLF makes it an unreliable revenue stream.
Despite the loss in state revenue, Community Library has been able to maintain and grow our programs and services with the help of local support. In 2009, local residents approved a one mill, five-year levy to offset the loss of state funding. The local levy provides stable and sufficient resources, allowing the library to meet the needs of Big Walnut area residents. Those local funds have enabled us to grow our collections, add eBooks and eMagazines, expand databases, update computers and technology and increase programs.
Although local taxes support a large portion of our operations, Community Library does not exclusively depend on them. We also depend on local support in the form of donations, grants, charitable programs and volunteer service. Local businesses and individuals have been extremely generous in providing prizes and funds for special projects. Local organizations, such as the Sunbury-Galena Rotary Club and Sunbury Lions Club, have supported the library by sponsoring specific programs and services. Likewise, charitable programs such as Kroger Community Rewards support library programs. Finally, we have a crew of volunteers donating thousands of hours annually in service to the library.
Without the variety of support the local community provides, we could not thrive as we have.
With the future of state support looking quite bleak, Community Library will continue to depend on local support to accomplish what we do. As much as we would like to see the state strengthen its support, we also recognize the positive aspects of local support. By working more closely with the community, we have a greater awareness of the needs of local residents. Likewise, the feedback loop is much more efficient and streamlined, providing a mechanism for the library to be more agile and adaptive to our evolving community.
If you have any questions about funding or library services, feel free to contact me. Also, we always welcome comments and suggestions. You can reach me at 740-965-3901 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.