The Wayne County libraries are faced with a difficult and challenging reality.
Molly Rodgers, Administrator of the Wayne Library Authority (WLA) and Tracey Schwarz, Director of the Wayne County Library, were frank with the financial issues facing the local libraries.
“People need to understand exactly how libraries are funded in Wayne County,” said Rodgers. “We are funded very differently than in other states, like New York or New Jersey.”
In other counties and states, a library tax is levied. That tax provides a large amount of funding to the public libraries in that state or county.
“We do not have a library tax in Wayne County,” Rodgers said.
Instead, the funding for all seven of the libraries under the WLA umbrella “depends on the allocation from the County Commissioners each year,” grants and donors.
“Fifty percent of all we do is supported completely by donations and grants,” Rodgers said. The rest of the funding is provided by the county and the state.
“We need to educate people about how libraries are funded,” said Schwarz.
At the end of last year, Rodgers said the library system, including all seven facilities, was facing a combined debt of $47,000.
"It will be worse this year," she said.
With the libraries currently working on the budgets for the upcoming year, many are looking at what to cut.
One of the most popular resources for those who frequent libraries is the electronic resources. These include e-books and e-magazines.
A misconception regarding electronic media is that they cost less than their physical counterparts.
Rogers said that is not the case. For example, if the library were to purchase one traditional book at $20 and $25, that same book as an e-book counterpart would cost $80 to $90 per copy.
What does the library do?
Besides offering citizens a place to catch on their reading, the library serves as a hub for many to access a plethora of resources. These resources are paid for by the library.
“People assume we get we get a lot of things for free,” she said. “We don't.”
There are also certain services that, under the Pennsylvania state code, the public library is required to provide.
Even though they are required to provide a bevy of services, ranging from tax help to applying for benefits, employees and the library do not receive funding to provide those services.
“We are not permitted to charge membership fees in Pennsylvania,” Rodgers said, which leaves limited funding option available.
"It's not just checking out fiction," Schwarz said.
The library facilities also provide a place for students of any age taking online classes or distance learning to study and access information.
Page 2 of 2 - "The library is one of the places many distance learners come to take their required proctored exams," Rodgers said.
How to help
The WLA is currently approaching its annual appeal.
With around half of funding for all of the libraries coming directly from donations, this campaign is crucial to keeping the library open.
The library currently offers the following services citizens:
• 138 different e-magazines and more than 20,000 e-books
• 35 foreign language courses and ESL courses for both computers and smart phones
• BookFlix, paired fiction and nonfiction online books for early readers
• Online homework help for K-12 students
• Online test practice for the SATs, ACTs and career tests including the civil service test and the ASVAB
• Online computer tutorials to improve skills with programs including Microsoft Word and Excel
• Online databases that focus on financial literacy, digital literacy and health literacy for grades 7-12
Libraries across the nation are being used more than ever, but funding is down.
“Libraries are not free,” Rodgers said.
To help support your local Wayne County library, visit www.waynelibraries.org and learn how you can donate.