Snapshot: Portrait of a Library Today
I worked at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Ohio for 10 years. It was in many ways one of the best work experiences of my life. I loved the library, I loved the people, and I knew that we were doing great things for the community. It was also clear over those years how much libraries were struggling to stay afloat in the midst of financial crisis. In the times when our communities needed us most, we had to look at cutting staff, cutting services, and decreasing the amount of materials we purchased and the types of programs that we offered. But how much it was struggling was made clear to me in this recent article in the Marion Star, Books Rely on Budgets.
Some of the interesting facts presented in this piece including the following:
When I worked at MPL we had a staff of around 80 people, today the staff is 31 people.
When I worked at MPL we had the 1 main library and 4 branches, while I worked there they closed one of the branches. Some of the branches are now only open 1 day a week for very few hours.
When I worked at MPL our operating budget was close to $3 million dollars, in 2013 it received $1.85 million.
When I worked at MPL the book budget was around $450,000, this year’s book budget is $165,000.
The last few years I worked at MPL we went through staff lay offs twice. The first time 12 people we laid off, the second time an additional 5 people were laid off. It was one of the most stressful things I have ever experienced in a work environment. My friend, another 10 year employee, was laid off and it took her 3 years to find another job. In those 3 years she had to move out of her apartment and move in with family. She recently found a full-time job in a library, right as her sister whom she is living with was herself laid off from work.
Marion Public Library is a great library in a struggling community doing important things. They had 20 public computers when I worked there and they were constantly full as people looked for jobs, completed homework, and tried to use the many services that moved to online only.
And that budget is a devastating decrease in book purchasing power. That means that residents of Marion County, around 50,000, will have less access to materials. And in a town where the median income is around $25,000 a year, those resources matter a great deal. We keep telling people to get a good education and find a good job, but the reality is that we don’t support funding the services that communities need to help people make that happen. We don’t support our local schools and library systems, but our communities desperately need them. Our future depends on them.
Filed under: Advocacy
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network