Staff, programs reinstated at Ephrata library, but…

By on December 23, 2014

Reduced hours. Staff lay-offs. Cancelled programs. That was the reality library patrons experienced in mid-November when the Ephrata Public Library took action to lessen the impact of a growing deficit. In the weeks that followed, library officials managed to raise funds and to operate one of the county’s busiest libraries despite the staff reduction.
“Since we’re open fewer hours, we expected to see a decrease in circulation and library visits,” said Penny Talbert, executive director.
However, initial numbers show an increase in visits, as well as circulation.
“It’s confirmation that our community needs access to materials and lifelong learning opportunities,” Talbert said.
Since the cuts were announced six weeks ago, library funding has been a major topic of conversation in the community.
“There has been a steady flow of people through my office over the past few weeks,” says Talbert. “We’ve been speaking with both patrons and municipal officials, state and county legislators and state library representatives.
“We promised at the beginning of this that anyone who made an appointment could come in, ask questions and review documentation. As of now, we’ve met with everyone who has requested a meeting — and I think the heightened awareness about this issue has made all the difference.”
Talbert has also been fighting a battle against misinformation.
“Public library funding isn’t cut-and-dried,” she explains. “There are multiple streams of revenue, none of which are guaranteed from year-to-year.”
The good news, though, is that the library’s efforts to raise money to close the budget deficit have been successful due to a record-raising Annual Fund Drive, which is currently at more than $75,000.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” warns Talbert. “We have about a week to raise quite a bit of money.”
To meet state standards, the library has to expend at least 12 percent of the annual budget on materials by Dec. 31.
“Any money coming in until the end of the year will be spent on books,” says Talbert. “As of last week, $30,000 was still needed. We must order those books and we still have money to raise to meet that requirement.”
Talbert also announced that some services and hours will be restored on Jan. 1. The new library hours will be Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We cannot reopen on Fridays,” said Talbert. “The funding just isn’t there.”
It is important to note that the Passport Office and Village Post Office hours will continue to be open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition to the slightly-expanded hours, laid-off employees will be returning in mid-January though with limited hours.
Programs will also resume with a caveat.
“Programs must be self-sustaining,” said Talbert. “We will be actively requesting donations during the programs, then evaluate the situation in March.”
The library will also begin charging for more computer classes and computer tutoring, a service that has been free since its creation in 2003.
“We need to be very careful about soliciting money at programs,” said Talbert. “Not all of our patrons have an extra dollar to donate. That does not mean they or their children should not be able to access information and educational opportunities.”

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