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Published: Sunday, 11/14/2010

Restoration of services on NW Ohio library agendas

Revenue from the tax levies approved Nov. 2 for local libraries won't start rolling in until next year, but some area libraries are loosening their purse strings early to let voters know they appreciate the yes votes.

The North Baltimore Public Library will restore its weekday hours - opening at 10 a.m. rather than 11 a.m. and staying open until 8 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday - beginning Monday, Nov. 15.

"We were very, very pleased with the community support that we had, and we're happy that we're able to serve the community with more hours and more materials," said Leslie McKinstry, director of the library.

In Henry County, officials of the Liberty Center Public Library plan to begin buying new books and movies for the first time in a long time after voters approved a five-year, 1.3-mill levy.

"We had frozen our materials budget," Director Brian Eckel-Hare said. "We're going to unfreeze that, and we're going to immediately begin purchasing materials. Beyond that, we're in a holding pattern until January when we set our budget."

On the whole, area libraries had resounding success at the polls Nov. 2 for what, in most cases, was the first time they'd ever asked for local taxpayer support.

Drastic reductions in state funding over the last two years had led libraries to reduce hours, cut staff, cancel magazine subscriptions, drop programs, and put holds on buying materials. Many took the next step by asking voters if they wanted to pay a new tax to restore those services.

"Through it all, our patrons were all very nice, very understanding, but they are very happy to see that we'll be opening a little bit earlier," Ms. McKinstry said.

North Baltimore voters approved a continuing 1.95-mill levy to bolster library operations.

At the Wood County District Public Library in Bowling Green, where voters approved a five-year 0.8-mill levy, patrons have "already asked whether the library is going to be open next Sunday, and we're very eager too," said Brian Paskvan, president of the library's board of trustees.

Although passage of the levy means its hours, including Sundays, will be restored next year, he said the Bowling Green library and its branch in Walbridge are happy simply to finish out the year without more staff furloughs or cuts.

"Unfortunately the money [from the levy] isn't immediate," Mr. Paskvan said. "You don't pass it and get it the next day."

The trustees' finance committee plans to meet in early December and have a proposal at the board's December meeting that would outline a plan to restore hours, staff, and programs, Mr. Paskvan said.

Over the last year, the Wood County library was closed for three weeks with staff on unpaid furlough.

"It really is exciting to be looking forward whereas for the last two years it seemed like every time something came up we had to look at where we could cut more," said Michael Penrod, assistant director at the library.

In Ottawa County, the Harris-Elmore Public Library will return to its previous hours beginning Jan. 3, trustees decided last week. Voters there approved a five-year, 1.1-mill levy for the library.

"The [levy] money won't come in until late February or early March, but we looked at the budget and thought we could afford to start the first of the year," Director Georgiana Huizenga said.

Beginning next year, Harris-Elmore, which has libraries in Elmore and Genoa, will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Currently, it opens at 12:30 p.m. and closes at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

"We will be open mornings, which I think people will appreciate," Ms. Huizenga said.

Library officials also plan to hire a new employee in its children's services department - a position that's gone unfilled since the previous staff member left - and to begin ordering new books, DVDs, and CDs right away.

Ms. Huizenga said the library plans to have a bit of a "whoop-de-do" in January with cookies and other goodies to thank voters for their support, but she said local libraries cannot stop lobbying for renewed funding from the state.

"We can't do it all on a local levy," she said. "We have to keep our legislators informed that we still need state support for funding."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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