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Facing cuts

While most citizens are aware Alabama’s schools are facing a budget crisis due to proration, they might be surprised to learn that libraries have also seen cuts in their funding.

Gayle Claire, director of the Opp Public Library, told the city council Monday that the library has seen a significant decrease in its state allocations.

“When the state’s education budget was prorated this year by 9 percent, then we were also prorated by 9 percent — that’s about a $3,000 cut,” she said. “And if you look at the (2010 fiscal year) budget, it’s going to be another $3,500 less, and that’s assuming there is no proration next January as well.

“That’s at least $6,000 less than we got two years ago. It’s possible it could be an even bigger cut if there’s proration in January, which everyone is expecting.”

Claire said the library primarily uses its state funds to purchase new books. As a result, the library will have to limit its number of new book purchases.

“Unfortunately, books are published every month, and so we have patrons who ask us, ‘Why don’t you have this book? I saw it at Wal-Mart the other day.’ Unfortunately, I really think we may have a problem this year meeting the public’s demand.”

Claire said books are about $18-25 each for regular print and $35 each for large print editions. Areas that may have to be cut for new book purchases include audio books, children’s books, juvenile books and adult non-fiction books.

Karin Taylor, director of the Andalusia Public Library, said the library’s funding has also been cut but she has not experienced any “pain” yet.

“We’re not doing very badly,” she said. “We have an excellent working relationship with the city council, and we haven’t needed to cut back on our books or computers.”

She said the library was originally budgeted to receive about $19,500 from the state for the 2009 fiscal year, and proration cut that amount to $17,400. Like the Opp library, she said the Andalusia Public Library uses its state funds for new book purchases.

“We don’t use it for operating expenses,” she said.

Taylor added that further budget cuts could cause the library to cut back on some of its materials, but a large number of those items — such as magazines and newspapers — are also available online.

“It’s kind of redundant to buy a subscription to a magazine when you can access it on our computers through the Internet or the Alabama virtual library database,” she said. “So, I could see us possibly making cuts there. Right now, I haven’t seen anything to this point where we’re going to have to cut back on our services.

“Now, that could always change, especially in this economy. But right now, I’d rather just keep a good outlook on it.”

Cordelia Waldrop, director of the Florala Public Library, said the library has also had to cut back on its new book purchases.

“I use my state aid money to buy books, so there will not be as many bestsellers or new books as we have now,” she said. “Or, I may be limited in the quantity I can buy of one particular book.”

Waldrop said the Florala community has shown great support to the library’s mission.

“I have wonderful patrons who buy new books and donate them to the library,” she said. “I’ve even gotten calls from people who say, ‘Don’t buy this for the library, because I’ve got it already and I’m going to donate it to you.’”

Claire also touted the support shown by her community, and said the Opp library has a “wish list” on the Internet bookseller Amazon.com, where patrons can purchase and donate titles to the library.

“You can just go on the Web site and search for ‘Opp Public Library’ and it’ll show the wish list,” she said. “We’ll be truly appreciative of any thing we get. We’ve had patrons who have given us books that have helped improve our collection considerably.”

She also said patrons can make a $5 donation (or $10 for an entire family) to become a “Friend of the Library.” The donations are tax-deductible and all funds are used solely for improving the library’s collection.

For more information about local libraries and their services, call the Andalusia Public Library at 334-222-6612, the Opp Public Library at 334-493-6423 or the Florala Public Library at 334-858-3525.