Patron services could suffer

Last updated: April 21. 2014 5:37PM - 616 Views
Beth Sergent bsergent@civitasmedia.com

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POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Library System is looking to fill a $35,000 hole in funding to continue to provide the level of services it offers for thousands of patrons.

Like many organizations, the library received a cut in funding from the county — going from $35,000 to nothing. Though the county is not the library’s only source of funding, that $35,000 factors into how much it receives from the state each year.

Pam Thompson, director of the Mason County Library System, said though she appreciates what the county has always done for the libraries in the past, the cut was significant. She explained the state basically matches funds the library receives from certain entities, like Mason County Schools and various municipalities around Mason County. But now she is left with finding an extra $35,000 to fill in the hole left by county cuts. Based on this local funding, the library had received around $139,000 in state funding in the last fiscal year.

To maintain this level of state funding and the services offered at the library, Thompson has been on a campaign to ask for more funds from those entities that already contribute, like Mason County Schools and local municipalities. So far, she’s made about a $12,000 dent in that $35,000 funding hole. Still, that leaves $23,000 to raise with the new fiscal year looming on July 1.

“If we don’t get local money, we don’t get state money,” Thompson simply explained the funding formula.

There are currently four branches of the library system — Hannan, Mason, New Have and Point Pleasant. There 12 employees with three being full time. If the additional funding cannot be secured, it’s possible layoffs could occur, but Thompson said she’s doing everything she can to avoid that.

She said if the money isn’t found, it’s possible hours will have to be reduced at the libraries, book purchases may suffer and some services would have to be modified — all measures she’s trying to avoid.

One of the biggest services the library system currently offers is free computer access that can be used for employment and educational opportunities. In a nine-month period, 4,458 patrons took advantage of this free computer access. There were 699 patrons who used the free wireless Internet in the past nine months. There were 334 library cards issued in the past nine months.

In addition, Thompson spoke about the meeting spaces the libraries provide for a host of organizations in the county, at no cost. There are also special programs provided to the community like the Adult Reading Program, Weekly Preschool Story Hour, Children’s Summer Readers, summer movies, summer specials (interactive educational events), among many other services.

Thompson said every effort is being made to make financial cuts wherever possible without cutting services for patrons. She said she’s looking closely at what can be cut “without the community being hurt.”

Thompson said she appreciates the county’s financial situation and understands if the money’s not there, it’s not there. But, she also feels the community needs to be aware of changes that may be taking place at the library soon if some extra money isn’t found to fill that funding gap.

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