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Library reduces staff, cuts hours

COVINGTON -- Nearly every employee of the Newton County Library System is being impacted by budget cuts.

Twelve positions -- one manager, one IT person and 10 shelvers -- have been laid off due to a reduction in force and 16 full- and part-time employees had salaries reduced, according to Director Lace Keaton.

The layoffs represent a 30 percent cut to the library staff. The library budget has been cut by $400,000 -- with $200,000 applied to the remainder of this fiscal year and another $200,000 for fiscal year 2013.

The library has 38 employees, now reduced to 26, to operate the Covington and Porter Memorial branches. The library also has a service outlet at Newborn Town Hall, managed a few hours a week by a library system employee.

The cuts, along with new library hours, are effective Jan. 1.

Hours at the Covington branch are being reduced from 44 to 40 hours per week. The state requires that at least one facility in the system be open 40 hours per week. Porterdale Memorial is open 35 hours a week.

The Covington branch will now open at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. That will cut one hour each day from Tuesday through Friday. Saturday the library will still be open four hours, but from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. instead of the current 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"Obviously, if we have service hours cut, this will definitely impact our patrons. We will have to provide services in a different way, streamline services," Keaton said.

Programs will likely have to be limited to certain days of the week when staff is available and patrons can expect longer wait times to check out and be helped.

"I anticipate everything, all our services, being impacted in some way or another, especially in the summer when kids are out of school, there will be a much longer wait," Keaton said.

Statewide library funding cuts meant the library system did not receive any state funding for materials this year. State funding was reduced from $337,949 to $283,884

Newton County reduced the library allocation from $1.1 million to $916,452, an 18 percent cut. However, Chairman Kathy Morgan has said that $300,000 allocated for operations of the new Porter Memorial Branch last year was a one-time allocation to get the new library running. This year, the libraries were both under one line item.

Library officials initially asked for $600,000 in additional funds, as the $300,000 from the prior year covered only six months of operation for Porter Memorial. After learning of the county's budget woes, they reduced the request to $300,000, in additional funds, but ultimately received $100,000.

Keaton said staff members are prepared to soldier on, adding that, "We will survive this."