Budget cuts may devastate libraries | SummitDaily.com

Budget cuts may devastate libraries

SUMMIT COUNTY – If proposed state budget cuts for libraries pass, library patrons will have a tougher time finding the books and materials they want in Summit County. What’s worse is they may have to pay to borrow books using the interlibrary loan program.

This year, the state must cut $869 million from the budget, and proposed eliminations include extensive cuts in state funds for libraries. The main services that may be eradicated are the Regional Library Service Systems, which allow patrons to search for and order books and other materials from other libraries statewide.

The service trades 3.3 million items annually between libraries, and everyday, the Summit County Public Library Main Branch returns a minimum of 10 to 15 items loaned from libraries statewide. Last year, the branch received 2,345 items from other libraries and sent out 967 materials, said Joyce Dierauer, director of Summit County Public libraries. A local courier service also transports crates of books five days a week between the Main, North and South branches.

If the service is cut, libraries will have to pay for their own courier services, use the U.S. Postal Service or use another carrier. Transportation of materials would cost libraries statewide between $1 million and $3.2 million, according to a recent study by the Colorado State Library.

To make matters worse, state funding for libraries has been cut by 86 percent since last June.

“They’ve eliminated the funding to libraries that bought $2 million dollars worth of educational materials,” said Jamie LaRue, director of the Douglas Public Library. “And now they are taking the last bit of state funds that made it possible for libraries to realistically share resources. The only way now will be for libraries to charge people.”

Dierauer has lost $14,000 in state grants in the last two years, causing her to cut $25,000 from this year’s budget.

“It just keeps snowballing,” Dierauer said. “It’s an accumulative effect. What more can they do to us? Pretty soon there will be no services coming to us from the state. If I have to go and charge people (for interlibrary loans), it will go against everything I believe in, but it might be my only recourse. When people like Jamie LaRue from Douglas County – one of the largest libraries – say they’re going to have to charge people, I know things are getting bad.”

The budget cuts also would decrease the cooperative purchasing discounts libraries receive through the Regional Library Service Systems. The service allows libraries to collectively contract with large book distributors, which saves millions of dollars statewide, said Donna Jones Morris, president of the Colorado Association of Libraries. This year, the bargaining power saved Dierauer more than $3,700 – in addition to the 43 percent she saved on books. Without the service, she would only receive a 25 to 30 percent discount off of books. Smaller libraries, with less buying power, would receive smaller discounts, she said.

“I am distraught over the funding cuts to many areas in our state budget,” said Sen. Joan Fitzgerald, in an e-mail to Dierauer. “Unfortunately, we are in a fiscal crisis and struggling to find a way out. I realize how important this funding is to you and will do what I can to re-instate a portion of it. I hope you will join me in contacting the governor and letting him know that we must find other ways to balance the budget. … I do not hold out much hope that we can change the Joint Budget Committee’s recommendations without the support of the governor’s office.”

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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