[Leaf-Chronicle, The (Clarksville, TN)](2000-Current)
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Leaf-Chronicle, The (Clarksville, TN)

December 31, 2002

Money woes may force library cutbacks

Author: Chantal Escoto; Staff

Section: Local
Page: 1C

Estimated printed pages: 3

Article Text:

"As the economic times get worse, library use has gone up."

Maurice J. Freedman

president, American Library Association

By CHANTAL ESCOTO

The Leaf-Chronicle

On any given day, a steady stream of people pass through the Clarksville-Montgomery County Library but it and other libraries nationwide face cutbacks on books, staff and maintenance because of money woes.

"It's a wonderful service for the whole county and there's nothing to compare with it," JoAnne Hackman, Friends of the Library president, said. "Any city should be proud of its library and we certainly have one to be proud of."

Friends of the Library has about 500 members and helps support the library with special programs and books. Without the non-profit group and volunteers, library assistant director Jane Woodard said they wouldn't be able to offer patrons as much with an annual budget of $1.6 million.

"Without them, we would not be able to have a summer reading program," Woodard said. Last year, the group gave a gift of $5,000 to the library.

And the local library is not the only one with financial challenges. Libraries across the country are cutting staff and services because of a budget crunch. And it couldn't come at a worse time when job seekers need resources to find work.

"As the economic times get worse, library use has gone up," said Maurice J. Freedman, president of the American Library Association. "The injustice of it is, here we are providing more service with the same staff, and we're asked to cut our budgets."

Children's and school librarians are being laid off, weekend hours are being cut and new book buying is out of the question in many libraries.

The problem stems from tight state and local budgets. When cuts need to be made, libraries are hard-pressed to compete against, say, fire and police protection.

Woodard said the library has a paid staff of about 53 which includes part- and full-time employees. But the facility is so short handed, she sometimes has to shift her technical staff to run the front desk.

"We're so understaffed it's not even worth discussing," she said, adding that about 20 volunteers take up the slack by doing everything from dusting shelves to labeling and maintaining books.

"Yes, (the cutbacks) have severely hurt our materials budget and what we're able to offer to the public like new books, software and computers. Those things we haven't been able to replace as we would have liked," Woodard said.

Then there's the leaky roof where buckets and waste baskets are used to catch the rain water.

The Library Board estimates it will cost $190,000 to replace the roof. Although the County Commission has provided $95,000 for the project, the city has yet to commit money for the other $95,000 needed. The local library has an average of 30,000 visitors a month and more than 68,000 card holders.

Elsewhere around the country:

The Public Library of Cincinnati planned to close five branches in 2003, but after a public outcry decided to reduce staff and services.

New York City, starting in October, reduced service at 67 of its 85 branches to five days a week, from mostly six its 2003 budget was cut $16.2 million, or 14 percent.

In suburban Detroit, the Berkley Public Library plans to cut hours and lay off its children's librarian, a 14-year veteran.

Seattle shut its libraries for a week in August and December and will do so again in 2003..

An American Library Association-sponsored study released this year found that circulation at 18 of the country's largest libraries was up about 8 percent in 2001 over the average of the four previous years.

"I have always been a big supporter of the library. I'm a former teacher," Hackman said. "I've always been a big advocate of reading. If you can read than you can do anything."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Chantal Escoto can be reached at 245-0216 or by e-mail at chantalescoto@the leafchronicle.com

Copyright (c) The Leaf-Chronicle. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: clk2003010310534668