Libraries ready to make do with reduced state funding

Shikira Barrett, reference assistant at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, puts a book card on a tree inside the library on Tuesday. The library is conducting a fundraiser - patrons can buy cards representing their favorite books and can create a memoir honoring or remembering a person that would be printed inside the library book. Some local libraries are experiencing budget cuts and are taking action to compensate for the revenue loss. Rich Cooley/Daily

After learning of recent state budget cuts, area library directors are looking at the new year with a mix of frustration and hope.

Perpetually strapped for cash, libraries based in Winchester, Front Royal and Edinburg trust in the community’s willingness to donate to library programs. But the response of a library to budget cuts depends on the needs for that fiscal year, and Director John Huddy said Handley Regional Library’s response will be different in coming months than it has been in the past.

In previous years, the library had to cut hours and staff because of less funding from the state.

“That’s why the library is closed on Thursday afternoons,” he said. But, “we are not at that point at this time.”

In fact, he said he hopes the opposite will happen and said plans include extending Thursday hours to better serve the community.

Closing so early on Thursday confuses the public, he said. “They do not understand why we’re not open.”

The library system, which includes Clarke County Library in Berryville and Bowman Library in Stephens City, has seen a $10,879 reduction of state funding for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot … but the money that comes in makes up a lot of our collections budget,” he said. Less available money means fewer new books and DVDs the library can add to its collection.

“We’ve always had struggles in that regard anyways,” Huddy said.

Since 2008, the library’s state funding has been reduced from $445,283 to $290,110.

Recently, the library was forced to discontinue the downloadable music service it’s offered since last spring through Freegal Music.

“[It was] one of our most popular tools,” Huddy said.

The story in Front Royal is a similar one, said Library Director Mary “Nicki” McGuire Lynch.

The library’s funding was reduced by $4,485 — the latest in a series of cuts she said the state has made every year since she became director five years ago.

It’s a concern made worse when cuts happen toward the end of the fiscal year, as they did again this year.

“By then you’ve pretty much spent what you’re going to spend all year,” Lynch said. “And then, boom, to be surprised the last quarter … “

She said that happened one year, and as a result Business Manager Eileen Grady has built a 3 to 5 percent cut into the budget each year since.

“I feel like we budgeted exactly on target,” Lynch said. “Because of donations, we will be OK this year.”

Though statewide budget cuts have potential to affect all libraries through the Library of Virginia, the Shenandoah County Library System of Edinburg acquires those funds in a different way.

Instead of receiving the funds directly, Shenandoah is grouped in a category of localities that must reimburse funds if and when they’re cut from the state budget.

“It’s an interesting program,” said Library Director Robert “Sandy” Whitesides. In the event of budget reimbursements, the commonwealth informs the county, which then decides where it will make cuts. The county will reimburse the commonwealth from contingency funds, he explained.

“Our state aid checks are unaffected,” Whitesides said.

A worksheet published at the website for the Department of Planning & Budget, http://dpb.virginia.gov, has calculated a $4,560 reduction of funds to Shenandoah County through the Library of Virginia, from a base of $149,862.

Total reductions of state funds for Shenandoah County, reflected in the document, are $84,803 from a base of $2,786,896.

The library system, which includes Basye-Orkney Springs Library, Fort Valley Library, Mount Jackson Community Library, New Market Area Library and Strasburg Community Library, receives the majority of its funding from the county, with state funding chipping in an additional 20 percent.

But state aid is less than it used to be and can be used for certain purchases only — mainly books and other materials that affect the library’s circulation. County money mainly funds building operations, salaries for paid employees and library equipment.

Handley and Samuels, which continue to rely heavily on community donations, recently mailed out appeal letters and plan upcoming fundraisers.

At Samuels, the Season’s Givings book sale invites visitors to choose a book from the library Christmas tree to have plated for $10 with a recipient’s name.

“The budget’s a guessing game,” Lynch said. “Normally each year we’ve been bringing in donations more and more.”

Donations to the libraries can be made, Attn. Director, to Handley Regional Library at 100 W. Picadilly St., Winchester, 22604; to Samuels Public Library at 330 E. Criser St, Front Royal, VA 22630; or to Shenandoah County Public Library, 214 Stoney Creek Blvd, Edinburg, VA 22824.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com