“It’s one of the only places we all love going to,” said the Champaign mom, via email. “It’s amazing to see how the library developed in the past couple of years, from being in the old building to the relatively new one.”
Ziv-Gal is very concerned about the library’s recent announcement that it will be cutting service hours in the near future. The Champaign Public Library announced on April 29 that it is $500,000 short of the funding needed to maintain current service levels in the coming budget year. Unless additional city funds can be directed to the library, hours of operation will be need to be reduced after July 1.
“It will be a shame to start cutting off budget from it because I believe that it will just get worse once such a step is decided,” wrote Ziv-Gal.
The Library is advising those who are concerned about the potential reductions to contact their Champaign City Council representatives as well as Mayor Don Gerard. (If you don’t know who your rep is, here’s a list and contact information for all of them as well as the at-large council members.) The Champaign City Council is expected to discuss library funding at a study session scheduled for Tuesday, May 14.
According to the news release, the reason for the shortfall is that library tax revenue has fallen while operating expenses continue to rise. “Champaign property tax provides 92 percent of the library’s budget. In the past, that income has grown as the city has grown. With the recession, however, property values have declined and are expected to remain flat for several years, leading to a deficit that would grow each year without action to correct the problem.”
The library began reducing spending in 2009 by eliminating the Bookmobile and limiting use by people living outside Champaign-Urbana. It has left 14 staff positions vacant. Despite other spending cuts as well as raising revenue — including doubling overdue fees — it is not enough to close the pending budget gap.
Under the current budget proposal, the library would be open 31 fewer hours a week. Monday through Friday, the Main Library would open at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., and close at 7 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. The library’s Douglass Branch would be closed on Mondays and close at 6 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. All weekend hours would remain unchanged.
Library Director Marsha Grove said in the release that personnel is the library’s greatest expense; further staff cuts would require reduction in service hours.
“The library carefully considered how to reduce hours with the least impact on the public,” said Grove. “Still, for many people, including families, working people, computer users, students, and groups with meetings, we know that this would be a significant change.”