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Published: Friday, 7/24/2009

Toledo-Lucas Co. library system cuts back as Ohio trims $1.9 million

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Though Toledo-Lucas County Public Library trustees say they hope to keep the quality of customer service high, Library Director Clyde Scoles didn't pretend that the $1.9 million in cuts approved yesterday won't be noticed by patrons.

"They're going to see it in less collection. They're going to see it in terms of reduced hours. They're going to see it in terms of lines at the computers when they need to file for unemployment, look for another job, look for a placement center, look for a college," he said. " A myriad of things that will not be eliminated but will be reduced."

"We're talking here [about] shrinkage," he said. "I don't like to use that word, but it is shrinkage and living within our means. We have to live within our means."

While the cut in state funding for public libraries was not as severe as some had feared - the legislature approved an 11 percent reduction rather than a proposed 30 percent - Toledo-Lucas County anticipates losing $2.4 million this year and $4.2 million in 2010 from the reduction in state funding and an expected 10 percent to 15 percent drop in local property tax collections, Mr. Scoles said.

Because of that, trustees agreed during a meeting yesterday at the Sylvania branch to drastically reduce spending on new materials for the library system and to eliminate Sunday hours at four locations. Only the Sanger branch in West Toledo, the most central location, will remain open on Sundays.

None of the library's 350 full-time employees were laid off, although the jobs of about 60 pages - mostly high school students who work part-time shelving books - were eliminated.

Nonunion employees, including managers, administrators, and supervisors, will not receive step, merit, or cost-of-living allowance raises for the rest of the year, and those same employees will pay $64.22 a month - up from $22 per month - for a single-coverage policy for health, drug, and dental insurance.

Some of the biggest cuts were made in purchasing new materials for the library system, which operates 18 branches throughout Lucas County and its main library in downtown Toledo.

Trustees cut the library's 2009 budget for adult books by $500,000 and juvenile books by $150,000.

They agreed to spend $196,000 less on movies, music, and audio books, and $70,000 less on periodicals. The furniture and equipment budget was reduced by $306,753 while the information technology budget was cut by $200,000.

For the first time in the library's history, trustees agreed to offer employees with 30 or more years with the system an incentive to retire this year. Mr. Scoles said 33 employees are eligible for the incentive program, which would be voluntary, optional, and available only until Nov. 30.

He said the retirement incentive option was offered in an effort to reduce staff through attrition rather than layoffs.

The absence of layoffs was a relief to heads of the two unions that represent library employees, although David Lutz, co-president of the Association of Public Library Employees/UAW Local 5242, said yesterday's cuts may just be the beginning.

"This is this phase," he said. "Who knows what's going to happen next year or even for the remainder of 2009?"

"Next year is going to be the big test when we lose more money," said Harry Johnston, unit director of Communication Workers of America Local 4319, which represents circulation clerks, custodians, maintenance workers, and book processors.

The reduction in state funding for libraries has hit some area libraries even harder because, unlike Toledo-Lucas County, they do not have local tax levies to supplement their income. Lucas County's 2-mill levy provides nearly half of the system's operating dollars.

In Bowling Green, Wood County District Public Library has cut hours, increased fines, frozen hiring, and slashed its budget for new books and technology. Because it has no local levy, it has been relying on increased fund-raising efforts by its foundation and friends of the library group to buy new materials this year.

Way Public Library in Perrysburg last month cut its materials budget by 20 percent, but Director Nancy Kelley said the 1.5-mill replacement levy approved by voters last August has spared it from further cuts for now.

"We get 45 percent of our budget from our local levy," she said. "We thought that was going to carry us into greatness but instead it's just allowing us to keep providing services."

Toledo-Lucas County Library Trustee James Black II said it's impossible to predict the future of library funding.

"Things are going to change. Unfortunately I don't anticipate them to change direction at this point," Mr. Black said. "We're going to continue the way we are now, but our goal is still to provide the quality of service that we have provided and that people have come to expect."

Union officials asked that the administration take employees' ideas for saving money seriously.

"[Our union] has been encouraging our members to submit any and all ideas on how the library can save money to their managers," Mr. Lutz said. "No matter how big or how small, no matter whom it impacts, all ideas should be considered."

Mr. Scoles said that in 2007 the library promised to open more branches on Sunday if Lucas County voters approved a 2-mill, five-year replacement levy. Oregon, Sylvania, Heatherdowns, Sanger, and the Main Library were opened on Sundays, although only the Sanger branch stays open during summer months.

Mr. Scoles said it's the most expensive time of operation for the library because employees are paid overtime to work on Sundays. Closing the four branches on Sundays is expected to save $238,000, he said.

"We're very unhappy to have to close rather than reopen the branch libraries and main library on Sunday because people who are looking for jobs look for jobs on Sunday as they do on Monday," Mr. Scoles told trustees.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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