EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the passage of the Liberty-Center library levy.
Nevermind the Republicans, the biggest across-the-board winners in this fall's election were - once again - Ohio's public libraries.
Voters statewide approved 30 of the 38 library issues on the ballot Tuesday, or nearly 80 percent. Of the record nine libraries in the local region that sought operating levies, eight won passage.
The seven area library systems whose levies were approved were Bellevue, Dorcas Carey, Forest Jackson, Liberty Center, Harris-Elmore, North Baltimore, Tiffin-Seneca, and Wood County. Voted down was a levy in Putnam County.
And this latest election day was no anomaly. Voters passed 81 percent of the 37 levies on the November, 2009, ballot and 86 percent of the 29 levies on the May ballot, according to the Ohio Library Council.
Many school districts only can dream of such success at the polls. Once again this election, voters showed significantly less enthusiasm for the levies and income tax questions that would support those other book-filled institutions of learning.
Toledo, Oregon, Sylvania, and Springfield school districts are among the districts bracing for cuts to services after having failed Tuesday to draw ballot booth support.
Lynda Murray, director of government and legal affairs for the library council, believes that a key to libraries' Election Day victories is the number of people of every age and station of life who visit community public libraries.
And it doesn't hurt that libraries generally ask for a lot less money than a school district.
Voters are seeing more library requests on the ballot because of steep reductions in state funding, which traditionally has been libraries' primary source of operating revenue.
The funding shortage has forced libraries to enact major cuts to hours, payroll, equipment, and materials or ask local residents for help.
"Libraries that have local levies tend not to have had as many layoffs and they're keeping their hours," Ms. Murray said. "At libraries that don't have local levies, staffing and hours are real victims of lower budgets."
Still, many of the newly approved library levies will generate only enough to replace the roughly 30 percent loss of state funding in recent years.
Clyde Scoles, executive director of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, said the strain on libraries' budgets comes at a time when large numbers of people are using libraries.
Internet-ready computer terminals are especially popular among job-seekers hunting for work and filling out applications.
For cost-conscious movie viewers, libraries offer deep repositories of free-to-borrow DVDs and even Blu-ray discs.
In sum, a local library branch offers services for just about anyone inside - not just those in grades kindergarten through 12.
"The library is a school outside the school, and we don't give grades or take attendance," Mr. Scoles said.
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