Monday, November 24, 2014

Public Libraries: a dying service?

by: Alexandra Hoff

WHTM Harrisburg, Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - It's about books, not bookkeeping - or at least it used to be.

"That's not part of what you learned about when you went to school to be a librarian years ago," said Sue Erdman, Executive Director at the Joseph T. Simpson Library in Mechanicsburg.

In many ways, Erdman has become a full-time fund raiser, the library itself is responsible for 26 percent of their own budget.

"It was just like, well you wont get your second payment this year, and that was it," said Joy Hamsher, director of the New Cumberland Public Library.

Hamsher's library was forced to cut their employees from six to three after they were cut off from a state subsidy program given to boarder-libraries serving a portion of out-of-county residents.

Because of the six-figure cut, they can no longer afford to stay open on Fridays.

"About 50 percent comes from the county, 20 percent comes from the state, and the rest we have to raise," she added.

But that 50 percent has been a strain on the county. So much so that a strategic consulting firm has been brought in to help iron out a future.

"We have a library system board that has its own expert perspective and we have the board of commissioners and we have our own perspective and opinions and we need to bridge those differences," Cumberland County commissioner Gary Eichelberger said.

The county must be able to prove to the taxpayer that libraries have a solid future.

"Every public dollar we put into something we have to be able to spell out exactly what the return to the community is," he said.

In order to stay up-to-date libraries must continuously invest in new technology, and technology takes funding.

So what if the funding fix never comes?

"Well, I guess we'll have to continue to cut," Hamsher said.

from: WHTM/abc27

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