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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Library Budget for 2017-2019

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 06, 2017

 

The end of July of any odd-numbered year brings closure to any Ohio governmental entity which has been following the six-month long budget process that brings the next Biennial Budget process to a conclusion for the State of Ohio.

 

Yes, even your local public library system is part of that process; a budgetary process that seems to be never ending and is simply part of the operations of our public library system.

 

The Public Library Fund has been part of Ohio’s budgetary process since 1986 when Ohio assumed the former intangibles tax that had funded libraries beginning in 1933.

 

The PLF is somewhat different from other budgetary funds in Ohio’s budget, as it is a percentage of the General Revenue Fund of the state that is used monthly to fund Ohio’s 251 Public Library Districts.

 

The PLF has shifted up & down over the past few years, but the 2017-2019 Biennial State Budgets has settled the number at 1.68 percent which the Legislative Service Commission estimates will yield $ 380.8 million statewide, or $ 2.4 million for Jefferson County.

 

That percentage is a compromise that is lower than the last two years, but higher than the previous two years and overall little change over the last decade.

 

In 2009, the State reduced the PLF by 34 percent and told public libraries that they needed to place local levy issues on the ballot so that local libraries would also receive local funding --- and a large majority of Ohio’s libraries have done that and gotten support from local citizens specifically for operating expenses.

 

The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County has a 1 mill levy that was approved in 2010, and renewed in 2015 that brings our total operating budget to $ 3.7 million for 2018.

 

We also watch the financing for OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) which provides our Internet trunk line and technical support, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped which provides specific services, and the State Library of Ohio which coordinates all Ohio libraries and their services.

 

Unfortunately, the State Library of Ohio was cut by 13.5 percent for operating expenses, but increased by 6 percent for services to libraries --- and we will be watching the impact of that on our local library system.

 

I can remember when the State Library of Ohio was staffed by 148 people in the 1970s, and next year will find that number reduced to only 70 staff members, only slightly more than our own library system employees. 

 

Of course, things have changed in public libraries over the years and we operate with a dozen fewer staff than 15 years ago with the changes in technology in the information market place.

 

We purchase different things than we did a few years ago.

 

Libraries used to buy expensive auto/truck repair manuals, but most of those books are no longer published; replaced by online databases with the same information.

 

Last year, the cost of that database that replaced the printed books was about the same as buying all of those printed books.  Fortunately, more people can use the database than could use the books at any one time.

 

Fortunately, Ohio libraries share resources and acquire databases in groups for reduced costs, making the most of our library dollars.

 

Since 1988, our library system has been part of a shared automation network of libraries that provides our online systems and database of some 92 library systems in Ohio.

 

We also share in the Ohio Digital Library which now has more than 400,000 eBooks for shared downloads.

 

The days of a small library with some books-on-the-shelf that can service citizens with public library service is long-gone.

 

I thank everyone for their continued support of our public library system, and remember to share those library stories with area legislators.

 

It is all part of a larger process that provides public library service to Ohio’s citizens.