Ohio Libraries Face 30 Percent Cut in State Aid

Adrian Versteegh

Despite a circulation boom, public libraries in Ohio are scrambling to close branches, reduce hours, and lay off staff—all in an attempt to cope with an unprecedented drop in state funding. According to the Ohio Library Council, reductions approved last month to the Public Library Fund, along with declining tax revenues, are expected to shrink library budgets by as much as 30 percent. Most of the cost-cutting measures will take effect in September.

The $84.3 million pared from Ohio’s Public Library Fund last month is significantly less than the $227.3 million reduction first proposed in June by governor Ted Strickland. That plan—which could have translated into a 50 percent cut to library funding—was scaled back after widespread public outcry and organized action by groups like Save Ohio Libraries. “We are very thankful for the overwhelming support from our patrons,” said Felton Thomas, director of the Cleveland Public Library, in a press release. “Without a doubt, the outpouring of public opposition to the proposed state budget helped save us from a situation even more dire.” Although the Cleveland Public Library recorded a 16 percent rise in circulation this year, it will still see its budget contract by $10.7 million. “We will be working very hard to evaluate cuts that will have the least negative impact on the community,” says Thomas. “But the realities of the current economic climate will, undoubtedly, require shared sacrifice from everyone.”

Most of Ohio’s public library systems have announced reductions of one type or another, with the Columbus Public Library implementing salary cuts and the Akron-Summit County Public Library unveiling plans to reduce its workforce by 10 percent. Details about cuts to specific services can generally be found on library Web sites, as well as at the Ohio Library Council and Save Ohio Libraries.