State College

Schlow Centre Region Library steps up fundraising efforts

Children’s author Teresa Stouffer reads her book “No Snitchin’ in the Kitchen” and asks youngster to act it out with her during Speak Up for Libraries Day at Schlow Library on Thursday, November 6, 2014.
Children’s author Teresa Stouffer reads her book “No Snitchin’ in the Kitchen” and asks youngster to act it out with her during Speak Up for Libraries Day at Schlow Library on Thursday, November 6, 2014. CDT file photo

The Friends of Schlow Library on Thursday announced a name change and the need to raise funds to continue to operate at its current pace in light of about $1 million in state funding cuts since 2007.

The nonprofit’s fundraising arm is now called the Schlow Library Foundation.

Library director Cathi Alloway stressed that Schlow is not in danger of closing.

“That would definitely be too strong of a statement to make,” she said. “I am worried about things in 2016 and five years from now. I worry about whether we’ll be able to stay open for 60 hours a week. I worry about if we can do all the story times we have waiting lists for. I worry about if we can buy enough books to keep up with our high standards ... but our future is not in jeopardy.”

The library reached a high point of state funding in 2008 at $623,283, a number that dropped to $419,030 by 2012 and remained constant through 2014. It is not known yet how much funding the library will receive from the state this year, because legislators have continued to debate the budget beyond its June 30 deadline.

“In 2008 the recession hit, and we were a little surprised when Gov. Ed Rendell proposed the cuts, but we thought it’d come back to us in subsequent years,” Alloway said. “Instead they just cut more and more.”

Local municipalities have not been an issue for the library.

“I love the support of our locally elected officials,” Alloway said. “The Centre Region Council of Governments municipalities provide $1.3 million of our $2.4 million budget. They give adequate support, and every year they give us a little more and support the services we provide to their constituents.”

Rising costs have compounded the library’s financial constraints.

Alloway said inflation, particularly with health insurance costs for the library’s 41 employees, has been problematic. Rising book costs, especially for e-books, have also been a major issue.

“The e-book budget is going through the roof,” Alloway said. “People love to read them, but the publishers charge a lot more than going on to Amazon to get a book.”

Maintaining the library’s building is also putting a crunch on cost management.

“There are increasing costs of maintaining an aging building as things get older and wear down,” Alloway said.

The library has reduced costs by cutting hours of operation. Schlow was open 65 hours last year, which was cut to 60 hours during the school year and 58 hours for the summer. Alloway also said the library used to budget 13 percent of its annual expenses for new materials. New materials now represent 10 percent of Schlow’s budget.

More people, Alloway said, use the library than ever before despite it being open fewer hours.

“That’s because libraries like ours have changed to meet the needs of its communities,” she said. “We have all of our books, e-books and rent DVDs. We have free computing labs for people to come in, check their email and use Microsoft for free. There’s a misconception that libraries are outdated because of the Internet, but that’s not true.”

The library also recently hired Molly Hetrick as manager of philanthropy to lead the foundation’s fundraising efforts.

Library administrators are banking on Hetrick’s experience — she managed a $1.25 million capital campaign at Millbrook Marsh — to foster fundraising opportunities and cultivate relationships with the public and private sectors.

“Our goal for her is really more about donor stewardship, thanking and celebrating people that support us,” Alloway said. “At her past job she was gifted at building relationships, and what she’ll do is more than being a fundraiser.”

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