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Schlow Bounces Back Following Week-Long Closure

by and on June 18, 2014 4:10 PM

Almost one month ago, Schlow Centre Region Library closed for one week due to state budget cuts.

Looking back, library staff and board members say they have received a lot of community support, but await the 2015-16 budget before more decisions are made.

“The closure was painful for our … customers and unpaid staff,” says library director Catherine Alloway. “However, we seemed to have raised public awareness of the way public libraries are funded, and in particular, the declines in state aid that have negatively affected Schlow … and all other libraries in the state.”

Schlow was closed from May 12 to May 19. Before then, staff asked library patrons to fill out postcards with messages about their library use. About 500 postcards have been collected and will be sent to Gov. Tom Corbett and other elected officials in Harrisburg.

“We would like to think that hearing from constituents that have signed messages will have some kind of impact,” Alloway says. Other public libraries throughout the state are taking similar measures, she adds.

“The rally was excellent in bringing attention to the closure,” says Sue Werner, president of Friends of Schlow Library. She also believes the rally was key in bringing attention to the state legislature.

The 2014-15 fiscal year budget has to be passed by July 1, but Werner says it’s taken longer than that in some years. It will be hard to tell if another closure is necessary “until we see how much funding we get.”

“We don’t have to repeat the closure for another week,” Werner says. “That was bad enough once.” She also says that through this unpleasant furlong, Schlow staff “understood the necessity.”

Glenn Miller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Library Association, says the entire budget is “cloudy” right now since the state faces a deficit of $530 million in projected revenue from the 2013-14 fiscal year.

“It’s a major challenge right now,” Miller says. “I don’t think anyone knows what will happen.” In February, the governor initially proposed increasing the Department of Education’s budget, which public libraries are housed under, by a modest $500,000 for the 2014-15 fiscal year. That could be in jeopardy now.

According to Miller it’s going to be tough for Corbett and the legislature to balance both this past year’s and the upcoming budget, but he thinks it will pass by July 1 since it’s an election year. If there is an increase in the budget for the Department of Education and public libraries, Miller says it will be the first since 2007.

In order to show how valuable public libraries are to the community, he says people should continue to show their support by making their voices heard by Corbett and the legislature.

If Schlow’s budget is not increased, Alloway says it is likely that hours will be trimmed from the weekly public schedule. The library is currently open 65 hours a week.

Since the library’s closing and the rally, Alloway says Schlow has received many generous and unexpected donations. She explains that donations are usually put toward the general operating budget and what best suits the library’s needs unless the donor designates it for something specific.

Right now, however, Alloway says the donations are helping pay for snow removal and utility costs from this past winter, which put the library over budget.

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Brittany is the staff writer for The Centre County Gazette.
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