By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
After a decade of asking state government to keep their funding stable, Ohio’s libraries would now like to see more revenue.
The state’s Public Library Fund has received a percentage of the state’s general revenue fund. In the current budget that’s 1.68 percent, which generated $384.6 million this year. When that funding formula was put in place in 2007 the percentage was 2.2 percent, which generated $458 million in funding. The high point in state funding was in 2001, when libraries received $497.6 million, or $708.5 in today’s dollars.
Then when the recession hit in late 2008 and library funding began to decline.
Michael Penrod, director of the Wood County District Public Library, told the library’s board of trustees Monday that the Ohio Library Council will be looking to have the amount for the state’s public library’s returned to 2.2 percent of state revenues when the biennium budget is put together next year.
As the economy struggled stable funding with the possibility of modest growth was acceptable. But now with fat rainy day fund balance and the unemployment rate low, it’s time to ask governor and legislature to restore the Ohio Library Fund.
Ohio is unusual among states, he said, in funding libraries through the state budget. Others fund them through local or county taxes. That means they must vie for money from other government services such as parks and roads.
Having that statewide structure, Penrod said, has allowed Ohio to build a network where local users can access material from across the state at no extra charge.
A graphic presented by trustee Chet Marcin showed that in 2015, Ohio ranked as number 1 in the nation in library visits per capita. Ohio had 6.8 such visits compared to second place New Hampshire with 6.4 visits, and last place Texas with 2.7 visits.
Board President Brian Paskvan said he believes there’s a connection between that state support and the high level of use by residents.
He noted that at one time only 30 percent of the state’s libraries had local levies, now that’s flipped and only 30 percent do not have local levies, and depend largely on state funding.
The Wood County library system gets 53 percent of its funding, $1.43 million, from the state with another $1 million generated by its local levy.
He said when state funds started to drop the Library Foundation and Friends of the Library ramped up their fundraising efforts. That now accounts for $153,234, or 5.7 percent .
The remaining 3.15 percent is accounted for by fines, fees and miscellaneous income.
Penrod said he believes in the local community having a stake in its library operation through the levy and local fundraising are important. Those give residents a sense of investment in the library.
Monday the trustees also approved changes to its policy on handling credit cards. Penrod said most of the changes mandated by the state reflect policies already in place at the library, though some internal procedures would change.
In discussing the new policy, Paskvan noted that procurement cards as well as gas cards are exempt from some of the rules.
He questioned whether the library should have a procurement card that facilitates purchasing, and often comes with greater rewards.
He said during his time as an administrator at Owens Community College, they were used. They can save more money if they are coordinated through a consortium. Owens, he said, joined with University of Toledo and other institutions.
The policy committee will look further into the matter.
Paskvan was re-elected as board president at the meeting. This will be his 10th year in the post.
Becky Bhaer was re-elected as vice president and Nancy Buchanan as secretary.