Library Support overdue?

By on November 19, 2014

 **This story is corrected to reflect the correct Ephrata Borough’s total cost of the skatepark as $220,000. That cost is totally unrelated to the funds the borough gives to Ephrata Public Library. 

Penny Talbert

Penny Talbert

 

Social media lit up minutes after The Ephrata Review reported news of cutbacks at Ephrata Public Library last week.

The Review’s Facebook members overwhelmingly churned out support for more funding for the library among the municipalities whose residents patronize the library most.

Penny Talbert, Ephrata Public Library executive director, held a question and answer session before about 80 people at the library Monday to discuss the library’s “seven-week belt-tightening” plan that includes closing two hours earlier – at 6 instead of 8 p.m. –  and closing entirely on Fridays.

“What we have right now is bare bones, but still more than the state requires,” Talbert said at the 5:30 meeting just before the new hours kicked in Monday.

“We are now operating at the level of our funding – small staff, shortened hours,” she said.

Talbert noted that as “the economy gets bad, our use goes up.” Many people have suggested on Facebook that the library open later and remain open until 8 p.m.

“Monday is the busiest day, Friday the slowest,” Talbert said. “The library has to open in the morning because a lot of things happen – deliveries, mostly – between 8 and 9.”

If the budget is still tight after the first of the year, Talbert said she would figure out a way to keep it open at least one night a week. Plus, they added an extra hour on Saturday.

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. Akron Borough had given $6.58 per capita, but Akron Council voted to reduce its payment in 2015 by 50 percent.

Talbert isn’t confident that those municipalities will increase funding.

“This is complicated by the fact that half the people who come to our library live outside our service area,” Talbert said. “We can’t fund raise in those areas, and we can’t go to the municipal governments without getting permission from the library directors in those areas. That permission will not be granted.”

Tablert said the county funding is supposed to account for those people who come in from other municipalities, “but we get only $11,000 a year from the county.”

Ephrata Township Manager Robert Thompson said he sympathizes with Talbert’s situation which has been exacerbated by a state-funding dip of about 50 percent over the past decade.

While many on Facebook and at Monday’s meeting suggest Ephrata Borough give more, Thompson pointed out that the borough gives more than most people probably realize.

In 2013 the borough contributed a civic contribution to the library in the amount of $48,000 “in addition there are approximately $102,578 of in-kind or cost avoided services that amount to $7.66 per capita,” he said.

“These include electric utilities, insurances, auditing fees, snow removal and lawn care, trash removal,” Thompson explained. “In addition the library received a $2,700 Art grant from the borough. The borough provides the library building charging minimal rent ($100 per month). If compared to market value we estimate the rent would be $250,000.”

Talbert said it’s not clear whether programs such as the children’s reading hour will resume on Jan. 1. and admitted “we can’t do all the programs we’ve been doing.”

She said Ephrata Library will go “by the library law.”

“Our additional programs are not part of the law,” Talbert said. “We need to make sure we meet state requirements before we start talking about add-ons. I started these extra programs, and it kills me to have to cut them.”

Talbert emphasized that the library is currently not in debt.

“But if we continue, we will be,” she said. “We can’t expect to carry a deficit into next year, we can’t do that without an influx of cash.”

A sub debate launched on Facebook centered on Akron Borough’s decision to cut funding and Ephrata Borough’s decision to spend money on a skatepark that is currently being built on the grounds next to the library.

There is some confusion that the skate park was built using library funds.

Borough council’s decision to build the park was in response to problems of kids and young adults loitering on Ephrata’s welcome center plaza on Main Street.

**The skate park cost is $200,000, plus $20,000 for storm water management, Thompson said.

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