By Portia Williams
An informational meeting was facilitated this week by Paige Williams, director of The Portsmouth Public Library, regarding the renewal of the library levy. The one-mill, five-year levy was passed in by Scioto County voters in November of 2010, and will be on the ballot for renewal Nov. 4.
Williams said Tuesday’s meeting was about informing the community, and not campaigning.
“The levy renewal that the library has is an informational meeting tonight. This is not actually a campaign, this is informational only. The library levy was passed by Scioto County voters by 62 percent in November of 2010. The five years will actually be up next year. We really didn’t want to do another levy. We were hoping that the support from the state would be backed up, and that we would not have to do a renewal,” Williams said.
According to Williams, from 1933 to 2009, the state of Ohio provided the majority of support to libraries.
“The reason that we needed a library levy at that time was because since 1933, the state had been most of the total support of all libraries in the state of Ohio. From 1933 until 2009, that was mostly the case, very few libraries in the state of Ohio had local levels, just a handful,” Williams said.
She said major changes in the library systems began in 2009.
“The governor and his staff in 2009 were working on a budget, and the economy started to have some issues, so they were looking where the could cut some funding. We found out on a Friday that they were going to cut all funding to libraries by 50 percent, and to local government by 50 percent, and people rallied,” she said.
According to Williams, the government cutbacks remained at 50 percent, while the state took a step back with the libraries, and cut them close to 30 percent.
“At that point, when 30 percent of your budget is reduced, we had to have a 30 percent cut in hours, we had to have a reduction in staff, we lost 17 staff members. We had to go back to a 1986 funding level for materials, the Bookmobile service was cut. We had to cut about 45 percent, so we dealt with the budget that we had at that time. Then, it was decided at that point, a lot of libraries across the state were looking into local levies, and so that’s why we decided to go with a levy,” she said.
Williams said there was a good turnout at the meeting Tuesday evening.
“We had a few people who came to find out about it, and most of them were staff. They had a lot of questions, and brought family members so that is really good. Right now, we are still pretty far out, with summer, and people are really involved in a lot things. I think that as we get closer we will offer another informational meeting,” she said.
According to Williams, with the levy comes a cost of $1.46 per month for home owners whose homes are valued at $50,000, or $2.92 per month for a home valued at $100,000. If the library levy passes, there will be no change to the amount of property taxes currently paid.
If the levy does not pass, there will be a reduction in operating hours, budget to purchase books, audios, DVDs and other materials. Failure of the levy would also include a reduction in staff, decrease in the number of library programs, and suspension or elimination of the home bound, which a service which provides assistance to patrons that cannot visit the public libraries due to medical, or physical limitations.
“Even with the Internet, and all of the technology we have, libraries are still relevant. We 22,968 registered borrowers, attendance of 251, 212, and 90, 272 people contacted us to ask us questions, which means that they could not find the information that they needed on the Internet,” she said.
Ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide on Nov. 4. Until then, Williams said, the community can still help by using the library, informing family and friends of library materials, services and programs, and informing them of the Renewal Levy on the ballot.
A Scioto County Library Levy PAC will be forming soon. For more information, visit “Support Your Scioto County Libraries” Facebook page.
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-370-0712 or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.