State funding not enough to avoid Schlow Library furlough

Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget calls for a boost in funding for the state’s library programs — a first since 2007.

But the modest increase won’t add up to enough to avoid a planned one-week closure of Schlow Library, officials said.

“It doesn’t change our plans that we had in place,” said D.J. Lilly, office manager at the library. “It’s nowhere near what we need to fill the gap.”

The one-week closure and staff furlough planned for May 12 through 18 is now a necessity, staff wrote in an update to Centre Region Council of Government officials.

Corbett is proposing a $231,000 increase for libraries in the state budget, which would take funding levels to $61.3 million. The increase is driven by a $500,000 jump for public library subsidies. Other funding, such as library access programs and funding for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, actually decreases under the budget proposal.

It’s the first time since 2007 that a Pennsylvania governor has proposed an overall increase.

Libraries in the state are hurting because funding has been cut or remained stagnant for several years but capital costs, inflation and materials needs increase.

Centre County Library officials last year moved to close the East Penns Valley Area branch in Millheim due to budgetary concerns. A group of residents in Millheim have reopened the facility as an independent community library.

Also facing tough budget choices last year, Schlow officials decided to implement the one-week closure and staff furlough.

Library staff discussed forgoing annual raises, layoffs and furloughs, choosing the latter over losing staff members.

Through 2013, state funding losses for the library have totaled $775,000 since 2007.

“The state aid cuts are so profound,” Director Cathi Alloway previously said of the decision to close for a week. “It broke my heart to have to cut hours.”

Alloway had said that May was chosen for the closure because it is traditionally a low-attendance time for Schlow, as nice weather picks up and the school year is near its end.

Lilly said library officials will continue to watch the state budget process as it heads to the state legislature.

Though the increase proposed by Corbett is modest, Lilly said officials will take it, knowing things could be worse.

“I guess you have to count your blessings,” Lilly said. “It’s not less, but not anywhere near enough to make up what we lost.

“It’s better now than we’ve been getting — nothing,” she said.