Akron-Summit County Library officials announced last month that hours will be reduced system wide beginning Jan. 6 in the face of a nearly half-million dollar reduction in state funding for 2014.
"The key is that we are working in our sixth year of a challenging budget," Library Director David Jennings said. "We've been reducing staff for six years and have lost nearly $15 million in revenue over the past five years."
In 2014, the library expects to receive approximately $450,000 less in state funding than in 2013. Due to continued reductions in state funding since 2009, along with real estate property devaluation, the library's overall annual revenue is now $4.4 million – 16 percent less – than in 2008.
As a result, hours will be cut at all of the libraries in the system. Hours at the main library will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The main library will also be closed on Sundays in the summer from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Branch library hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Bookmobile services on Saturday will also be canceled.
Library spokesperson Carla Davis said the reduction of hours and some services will cut costs in areas such as personnel, utilities and security, as well as corresponding to the staff reductions that have already been made.
"As an example, at the main library, we would have two shifts and be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We don't have the personnel to cover that number of hours," Davis said, noting that the staff reductions have been made through attrition and not layoffs.
The decision to reduce hours was based upon both budgetary concerns and a study of usage patterns, Jennings explained.
"It is important to know that the changes are a result of (the library system) making the best use of our budget and staff with the least impact on patrons," he said.
Even with the changes, Davis said, it will be business as usual at the library, even if the doors will be open less often.
"The reality is that we have lost about $4.4 million per year in state funds over the last five years," she said. "But we are working hard to have the reductions in staff and hours not affect services."
Jennings noted that the library has worked to keep its services and hours intact at a time when other library systems have made significant cuts.
"Unlike many public libraries, we did not reduce hours of service during the recession or in the years immediately following," Jennings said. "Over the past five years we have reconfigured our work to continue to provide high-caliber library services with significantly fewer staff. Through attrition we now have 77 fewer employees than in 2009, and our personnel budget has $2.6 million less in 2014 than in 2009."
Page 2 of 2 - He added that due to the reduction in Summit County property values, the library system is collecting approximately $1 million per year less than expected on its 1.4-mill operating levy, which voters most recently passed in 2010 – shortly before those property taxes were reassessed.
The library's operating budget in 2013 was $25.1 million and its temporary 2014 budget is $24.3 million, a reduction of more than 3 percent. Jennings pointed out that the changes in state funding have not been specifically aimed at public libraries.
"It was not an overt cut in library funding – these were tax-related changes made in the state's biennial budget," Jennings said. "(State lawmakers) made a number of changes in the biennial budget and the public library fund is a percentage of the general revenue fund. (The result is) library funding is looking at a 4-percent cut."