An Ottawa County man who said he never puts political signs in his yard made an exception for the Harris-Elmore Library tax levy, saying it was that important to him.
A Wood County woman whose husband has been out of work for two years said the library has been such a lifeline for her family, she would vote for the Wood County District Public Library's levy even if it was three times larger.
It's voters such as these - people who use and appreciate their local libraries - whom libraries across the state are counting on Nov. 2. Thirty-five Ohio libraries have operating levies on the ballot, including nine in northwest Ohio. Most mark the first time the libraries have turned to voters for local support.
"We've never asked the public for help before," said Georgiana Huizenga, director of the Harris-Elmore Public Library, which plans to restore the hours and material purchases it has cut if a 1.1-mill, five-year levy is approved.
State funding to the small library, with locations in Elmore and Genoa, has dropped from $466,815 in 2008 to an expected $345,037 for 2010, she said.
Every library in Ohio has been hit hard by reductions in state funding, which traditionally has been its primary source of operating revenue. According to the Ohio Library Council, more than half of all public libraries now have levies to help pay the bills.
"We've cut staffing. We've cut benefits. We've cut materials. We've reduced hours. We've taken three weeklong furloughs in the last 12 months," said Elaine Paulette, director of the Wood County District Public Library in Bowling Green. "Everyone has tightened their belts, and we've reduced expenditures the best we can, but this comes at a time when the library is more needed than ever before."
Wood County is asking voters to approve a 0.8-mill, five-year levy that would generate more than $1 million annually and enable the library to restore hours, staff, material purchases, and other services that have been cut.
At the Liberty Center Public Library, Director Brian Eckel-Hare said he froze the budget for buying books, movies, and other materials eight months ago. The only way the library gets new materials, he said, is through donations or support from its Friends of the Library group.
The Liberty Center library has a 1.3-mill operating levy on the ballot that would generate $147,434 a year for five years. Mr. Eckel-Hare said it would allow the library to restore hours, resume programming, and start buying books again.
Mackenzie Betts, spokesman for the Ohio Library Council, said that if recent history holds, the libraries have a good chance of gaining local support. Compared to school levies, she said, library issues have had an unusually high passage rate - 81 percent of the 37 levies on the November, 2009, ballot passed, and 86 percent of the 29 levies on the May ballot were approved.
"I do think people love their libraries and people think that public libraries are good stewards of public money," Ms. Betts said. "Another factor is public libraries serve cradle to grave - they serve people of every age. It's not like a public service that only serves one type of population."
In addition to Wood County. Harris-Elmore, and Liberty Center, other libraries on the Nov. 2 ballot in northwest Ohio include:
• North Baltimore Public Library in Wood County, 1.95-mill, continuing levy.
• Bellevue Public Library in Huron County, 1-mill, five-year renewal levy.
• Tiffin-Seneca Public Library in Seneca County, 1 mill, continuing levy.
• Dorcas Carey Public Library in Wyandot County, 1.75-mill, 3-year levy.
• Putnam County District Library in Putnam County, 0.87-mill, five-year levy.
• Forest Jackson Public Library in Hardin County, 0.7-mill, five-year levy.
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