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Libraries feeling the budget pinch again

January 22, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Having cut hours at three of its libraries last summer because of reduced state funding, the Franklin County Library System is trimming hours again, according to Executive Director Bernice Crouse.

The cuts, effective Feb. 1, will mean the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg will close it doors 30 minutes earlier on weeknights, at 8 p.m. Combined with the cut in Sunday hours made last summer, the weekly hours of operation will be reduced to 62.

The Ragged Edge Library in Guilford Township and the Lilian S. Besore Library in Greencastle, Pa., will both be opening later and closing earlier. Both will open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

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Both libraries, which had been open 55 hours a week, will be reduced to 48 hours, according to that schedule. Extended closings during holidays last year and reduced purchases of new materials also were part of the effort to trim costs.

"It is a sad day for public library services in Pennsylvania," Crouse said in a press release issued Wednesday. "We resorted to staff cutbacks only after every other nonessential expense was eliminated. Every staff member has felt the impact of the state cuts in one way or another. They have lost hours, benefits, pay, or some combination of the same."

Crouse said in the news release that the cuts are necessary "due to losses in excess of $300,000 for 2004 alone."

Last year, Gov. Ed Rendell proposed and the Legislature approved a 50 percent cut in library funding. Substantial cuts in social services were also made, but much of those cuts were restored when the governor and legislators agreed to a compromise budget in December, according to State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin.

"In the Legislature there were many people who wanted the money restored" for libraries, Fleagle said. "There just weren't enough votes to overcome that bias by the executive branch," he said.

Library funding was not voted on separately, he said, but in a supplemental budget package that had been negotiated between the House, Senate and the governor.

"We're going to refocus on libraries in the coming budget in February" when Rendell unveils his 2004-05 budget proposal, Fleagle said.

Along with reduced hours, Crouse wrote in the release that patrons will have fewer new magazines, books, videos and recordings to choose from because of the cuts.

Although both also receive funding from the state, the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Library in Waynesboro, Pa. and its sister library in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., have so far not reduced hours, according to James Rock, the president of the board for the two libraries.

He credited that to sound fiscal management, the libraries' endowments and public support.

Rock said a 2004 budget has not been finalized, but state funding for the year is likely to be 35 percent below 2003. He said it is too early to tell if cuts in services will be needed later in the year.

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