Schlow Library Closing for a Week to Off-Set Cuts in State Funding
In what will be a very public remedy to address funding cuts, the Schlow Library is closing -- shutting its doors for one entire week.
The library will be closed between May 12 and May 18 and all employees will go without pay due to a continuing drop in state funding.
While donations from the public hit a record high over the last year, library staff says cuts in state funding have forced the dramatic decision to close temporarily. Since 2008, staff says cuts in state funding have totaled more than $900,000.
Cathi Alloway, library director, says cuts in state funding began under the direction of Gov. Ed Rendell, before the recession, and since then funding has either remained flat or continued to decline each year. At the same time, expenses have gradually increased.
Alloway says the library selected mid-May to close since it's a time when the library sees the least amount of traffic. She says by closing in May it will ensure the library has the money it needs to stay open during the library's busiest time of year, which is June and July.
"We had to do this. We had to cut some type of service to balance the budget so that we could go forward and meet the public's needs," Alloway says.
In protest of state funding cuts, staff will be holding a rally on the steps of the library at noon May 13.
Tor Michaels, spokesman for state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, says Pennsylvania cannot increase funding for libraries, education or other areas in part because the previous and current administrations have not collected a severance fee from natural gas companies.
"When it comes to a choice by this administration between their corporate friends and the people of Pennsylvania, if the people of Pennsylvania's interests conflict with their corporate friends, the people of Pennsylvania lose," Michaels says.
Gov. Tom Corbett's office, state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, and state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, did not return calls for comment.
While funding has steadily declined, Alloway says interest in the library has not. Circulation has increased due to the increase in availability and use of e-books. With roughly 92,000 people using the library's service area, the catalog saw over one million searches in the last year. The library also recently revamped its website to better meet users digital demands.
This past week, the Schlow Library got a much-needed financial boost, collectingin donations during a 36-hour fundraising drive called Centre Gives. The library was also awarded a $5,000 grand prize because it received donations from 345 individuals. No other charity had so many people make donations.