Ephrata library announces cuts to programs, hours, staff

By on November 12, 2014

It’s no fairy tale; toddler story time will vanish Nov. 17 at the Ephrata Public Library.

Ephrata Public Library volunteer Kim Marks, left, and library program coordinator Penny Talbert.

Ephrata Public Library volunteer Kim Marks, left, and library program coordinator Penny Talbert.

Aslo gone beginning Monday is the Lego Builder’s Club, Ephrata Writers Group, Inspirational Movie Night, and at least 11 part-time workers.

In fact the library is ceasing all of its programs. It is closing two hours earlier each day, and will be closed entirely on Fridays.

Why?

Funding shortages, said Penny Talbert, Ephrata Public Library Executive Director.

Talbert said the library will have a 2014 deficit if it continues to offer its current services and programs and she hopes “a seven-week belt-tightening” will provide some salvation.

“We refuse to borrow money,” Talbert said. “We cannot spend money we don’t have.”

While she hopes to raise money and return services by January, that appears to be a Herculean task considering it already raises 64 percent &tstr; or almost $600,000 &tstr; of all of its operating expenses.

“I have to lay off 11 workers this afternoon,” she said. “We cannot afford to lose those employees. They are very good; any library in the county would be happy to have them.”

Akron Borough exacerbated the library’s conundrum last night when it announced it was cutting Ephrata Library funding by 50 percent &tstr;from $25,500 to $12,250.

Talbert said there’s very few options to plug the funding gap &tstr; libraries are not funded primarily by tax dollars &tstr; but that it could operate more efficiently if municipalities provided the state-guideline suggested funding rate of $5 per capita.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to Akron,” Talbert said.

Still, Akron had actually been voluntarily contributing $6.58 per capita, but Akron residents use the library more than any other municipality.

Talbert attended a crowded Akron Borough Council meeting Monday where she and many residents pleaded that the board reconsider its cut to $3.29 per capita.

Talbert has stressed the need by other municipalities to step up contributions to Ephrata Library in 2015.

In 2014,  Ephrata Township contributed $3.70 per capita, Ephrata Borough contributed $3.49 per capita, while Clay Township  gave $3.10 per person there.

Ephrata Library currently operates with a staff of about 30 that includes few volunteers. Strict state guidelines dictate what skill workers are hired, the services to be provided and hours the library must be open to maintain state funding which amounts to $200,000 per year to Ephrata Library.

Talbert also suggested that County Commissioners pressure the Lancaster County Library System to provide more funding to individual libraries that need help.

“All libraries aren’t the same but the (Lancaster County) Library System treats them that way,” Talbert said.

For instance Manheim Township gives its public library $754,000 or $18 per capita.

Talbert said the state provides no guideline to how the Lancaster County Library System distributes funding it receives from the state. She said LCLS “trickles down” about $150,000 to the 14 municipal libraries from of the nearly $2 million in state funding it receives.

LCLS earlier this year further complicated Ephrata Library’s future fundraising capacity by announcing the Library System would solicit funds within a member library’s service area, Talbert said.

But for now Talbert will concentrate on her yearly task in convincing municipalities in her area to give more money.

“We have not had very good luck at getting municipalities that will commit to (Ephrata Library) for more than a year,” Talbert said. “So my budget can be so vastly different from year to year (based on) whatever happens in these little municipalities.”

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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