What could have been considered a positive month turned into something more ominous when Governor Strickland announced, late on the Friday afternoon before Father’s Day, his proposal to significantly cut state library funding. Though as of early July the legislature has not gone along with his suggested 30% reductions, it appears that there will be some cuts on top of the 20% funding drop estimated for this calendar year due to declining state revenue.
Because state library funding has been flat for ten years, any cut will have further negative effects, especially for the 70% of Ohio public libraries that do not have any dedicated source of income other than the Public Library Fund. Libraries that have property tax income, like Shaker Heights Public Library, will still be faced with serious budgetary dilemmas.
Funding from the state peaked in the year 2000. That year, the Shaker Library received 44% of its tax income from the state. This year, that ratio will drop below 30% even without further cuts by the legislature. Should Governor Strickland’s proposed cuts be adopted, the ratio would drop to 20% and the Shaker Library would lose in excess of $900,000 annually.
Knowing that 2009 was not going to be a good year budget-wise, we had already reduced our expectation of state funding by 7% at the beginning. We later increased the amount to 12% and were in the process of increasing it to 17% when the issue of additional cuts was raised. It appears that we may now need to be prepared to handle anything from a 25% shortfall in state income to perhaps 35% or even more. There is great uncertainty.
In the meantime, things continue to go well at the library. June saw an upswing in our circulation with a 2.5% increase over the same month last year (2.4% at Main and 2.7% at Woods). Overall, we are just below the year-to-date figures for 2008 (+0.2% at Main and –1.1% at Woods). As we usually see during summer months, print edged out non-print 51% to 49% in June. Due to the need to reduce our expenditures on library material, we continue to see less of our material going to other libraries and more material from other libraries being borrowed. Nonetheless, we are still a net lending institution.
There was another ray of sunshine through the dark budgetary clouds when we found out that the Shaker Heights Public Library was rated as one of the ten best in its population group and one of the top 100 public libraries in America by the HAPLR Index. This index has been in existence for ten years and has a different way of rating libraries than the newer Library Journal Index, which also ranked the Shaker Library highly. We are one of only 173 libraries to have appeared twice or more in the HAPLR Top 100. Only eight of the 40 libraries in larger population groups of the top 100 had a higher index score than Shaker, making us 17th overall for our size or larger. Any way you slice it, this puts us in the top 1% nationwide!
Besides a variety of summer reading programs for children, teens, and adults, Friends of the Shaker Library will hold its annual meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, at the Bertram Woods Branch. Keynote speaker will be Marjorie Wilson, a member of the Executive Board of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table, giving remarks entitled, “Medicine Comes to Early Clevelanders.”