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Library funding slashed

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- In what Library Board of Trustees Chair Lois Upham called a "depressing development," the Newton County Library System will not receive any state funding to purchase materials for fiscal year 2012 due to state funding cuts.

"We knew we were going to get cut, but it's just every which way," Upham said. "We hope it's not as dire as we fear it might be. We're gong to be fighting a long battle over the next month or so."

As Newton County has not provided funds for materials for several years, the library is now dependent on the city of Covington's $15,000 annual allocation, and that can only be applied to the Covington branch, Upham said. The Board of Trustees requested the city double its allocation to $30,000, but the council reached a consensus during a Tuesday evening budget work session not to do that.

In addition, library officials are worried about cuts to the operating budget. The Porter Memorial Branch Library in the Oak Hill area opened in January and received $300,000 for six months operating cost. The board requested double that for the full fiscal year 2012.

"We were told that's not possible and we've had no chance to make a presentation," Upham said, adding that it appears the Porter branch will be allocated the same amount as last year, which isn't enough to cover a year's operating expenses.

To make matters worse, grant money received from private foundations is drying up. The result of all this is that the library may have to cut hours.

"We're going to have to look at new and creative ways to come up with materials, but if we don't get the operating money it may all be moot anyway," Upham said.

It's proven that when the economy gets worse, library usage increases, Upham said. So, the library is being used more but funding is being cut, she said.

"You start taking away resources like ours and it's diminishment of quality of life," she said.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the new library director, DeLaciea Keaton, will not start work until June 1.

"She's going to walk in the door and face these tremendous, terrible decisions," Upham said, adding that just how the cuts will affect the library won't be known until the new director "sits behind the desk and starts looking at the numbers."