Library Shut Down Draws Protest, Supporters Demand Increased Funding From Harrisburg, More Cutbacks Possible
Update: The Governor's proposed budget for 2014-15 would add $500,000 to the Public Library Subsidy line item, which would be distributed to public libraries across the state.
There were no chants, no slogans and no pickets, but there was also no question how dozens of protesters feel about the week-long closure of the Schlow Centre Region Library.
The library closed its doors on Monday, putting staffers temporarily out of work. Administrators blame years of state budget cuts for the decision to close down until next week.
The protestors gathered on the sidewalk outside the library Tuesday afternoon as community leaders pleaded for increased funding from the state.
Library Director Cathi Alloway says Schlow has lost more than $900,000 in funding since 2007, through a combination of factors. She says, some years there were outright budget cuts in Harrisburg. In other years spending remained flat meaning the library lost ground to inflation.
One speaker after another pointed to state legislators and Gov. Tom Corbett -- telling the library's backers to call on politicians and demand increased spending levels for libraries across the state.
Library supporters were also asked to fill out postcards, explaining what the library closure means to them. Those cards will be sent to state legislators in Harrisburg.
Patton Township resident Al Jones told the crowd there are a lot of campaign ads on TV but none of those political candidates are talking about library funding. "That's got to change," he says. "We have to communicate how important it is to us ... to have support and funding for public libraries."
Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe says, "This is really what happens when we get people in office who want to cut or reduce the size of government. This is the result."
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham told the crowd, "This is wrong and embarrassing. When asked by mayors of other states about Pennsylvania's library funding, I'm embarrassed to admit what has happened."
Asked about library funding, Governor Corbett's press office referred StateCollege.com to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Tim Eller, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, issued a statement saying "The Governor's proposed budget for 2014-15 would add $500,000 to the Public Library Subsidy line item, which would be distributed to public libraries across the state."
Schlow Library employs 20 full-time workers and 21 part-timers. All of them are off the job -- and out of a paycheck this week.
And Alloway says the week-long shut down is just the start. She says the library will likely have to shorten its hours of operation. The library is currently open 65 hours each week. Alloway thinks the library hours will have to be cut to around 60 hours per week, probably before the end of this summer.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the statement from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, regarding the governor's proposal to add funding for public libraries.
Watch video of the library protest below: