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Local News

August 13, 2013

Library cuts force juggling of needs, costs

— As today’s public library adapts to changing technology and the needs of its patrons they do so with a lesser amount of funding.

Statewide library programs were cut with the 2012-2013 budget thus eliminating Loan Star Libraries which provide direct aid to public libraries and reduced state funding for TexShare database program and fees to libraries were increased.

Federal funding the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission receives each year from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the Library Services and Technology Act was reduced due to Congressional action and be further reduced in future years because the level of state funding no longer meets the federal requirements for maintenance of effort, according to Not Typical Library Partners website. NTLP is a private, member-driven non-profit corporation serving all types of libraries in Texas.  NTLP's goal is to improve communities in Texas by building strong community libraries.

For Groves Public Library, the cuts meant a loss of about $7,000 in state funding.

“It was a quandary. Smaller libraries seem to need more funding because of their size while larger libraries serve more people,” Groves Public Library Director Deborah Harper said. “We still have the city budget but Loan Star gave us those little extras, items that are not in the city budget.”

The Loan Star funds were not spent haphazardly as projects were required to fit certain criteria. Mark Durham, director of the Effie and Wilton Hebert Public Library in Port Neches he used the funding toward collection materials and technology and other needs such as databases.

Victoria Klehn, director of the Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library in Nederland said her library lost between $6,600 to $8,100 in funding — funding that she used for collection development.

“That’s $6,000 to $8,000 worth of books we are not able to buy since then,” Klehn said.

Klehn said each year the staff makes notes on specific requests, look over their collection to see what needs to be updated and checks for worn copies.

“Then a portion of the money would have been allocated to purchase new DVD’s, or maybe there was a popular children’s series and the are only two copies and we wanted to buy the whole set, so we’d designate for new items as well,” Klehn said. “While we still have the city budget this (cuts to funding) means fewer of these types of projects we can have during the year.

Harper said the loss in funding will likely mean dropping the subscription to the Wall Street Journal and the Houston Chronicle. The Wall Street Journal, she said, costs about $600 per year.

To fill the void some libraries submit applications for competitive grants. Port Neches’ library was successful in a recent grant attempt that will fund a technology trainer for another year.

Patrons might not notice changes to their local libraries and most try their best not to impact patrons. Some, like Nederland’s library, make cuts throughout the collection and some may have to cut subscriptions to periodicals that aren’t widely used.

“It’s always a balancing act,” Klehn said. “I’ll be honest, when it comes to that (cuts) it hasn’t changed. I’ve worked in a library since 1972 and libraries are always doing a balancing act. I think any municipal department does, any government agency does. You want to provide the public with the services you now they’re going to use or feel they’re going to use. You’re always taking a chance on that.”

The state cuts doesn’t necessarily mean the end to public libraries. There are groups of people who support their local library. These groups, or “friends” hold book sales and such to raise money for their library.

In the end it’s about watching trends.

“Libraries are just transitioning, not going away. People will always find ways to provide services,” Harper said. “Like, for instance, if you lose your job then you learn new job skills and go on. We have turned more toward information and helping people in their daily lives.”

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

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