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Issue 2 seeks library stability

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Last year, the Greene County Library was honored as one of the 25 “smartest” libraries in the country by the Smithsonian Institute of Museum and Library Services, based on the high level of use — on average, a Greene County resident checked out 21 items per year.

But Yellow Springs puts that number to shame, according to Director Karl Colón. In Yellow Springs, the average villager checks out 55 books and DVDs annually.

“That number is absolutely sky-high,” Colón said in an interview this week. “When we say folks in Yellow Springs use the library, we’re not kidding.”

So library leaders hope that Yellow Springs residents put their money where their library cards are — in support of the Greene County library.

On Nov. 4, voters will find on the ballot Issue 2, the library levy. The continuing levy is a renewal of the library’s existing 1 mill levy, plus an increase of 0.9 mills. Homeowners will see a $2.60 per month increase on top of the $2.50 a month they currently pay for each $100,000 of home valuation. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $122 yearly for the levy if it passes.

Because the financial benefit for an average library user is about $863 a year for those books, CDs and DVDs, the library user is getting a bargain, according to Colón.

“We think it’s a good deal,” he said.

The levy is necessary because the library system has suffered significant state funding cuts in recent years. Specifically, the state has cut $6 million since 2008 and is expected to cut an additional 20 percent more of its funding in the next 10 years, according to the library web site. To make up for the loss, Issue 2 would provide more than half of the library’s annual budget and without it, staff would be cut, hours reduced, programs decreased and some library locations would be closed. 

And those outcomes would reverse the hard work that library staff has put in for the last several years. When Colón arrived as director in 2007, the staff surveyed library users to see what they wanted. And users wanted more programming, more materials and more information about the library. In recent years, the staff has done its best to respond to those requests and numbers indicate that they’ve succeeded: use has increased from 2.6 million items checked out in 2007 to 3.3 million items last year. 

“People told us what they wanted and we’ve worked hard to provide it,” Colón said.

Several recent projects also illustrate the library’s continuing efforts to reach people. Last year, the Greene County Library Foundation raised about $100,000 in private donations to launch the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends free books each month to children under five. So far, the library has sent out 30,000 books to young children, and has received considerable positive feedback.

“People love this program,” Colón said.

And Colón is also proud of the recent negotiations, in which he participated, that brought the Greene County system into the same network as that of universities in Ohio, giving Greene County library users access to “the top level of university materials from all over the state.” Specifically, Greene County residents now have access to 75 million items, up from five million.

“I’m proud of the level of access that’s now available to everyone,” he said. “This makes us part of one of the best and biggest library networks in the world.”

The library staff continues to do its best to meet the needs of customers, according to Colón, and he hopes those users repay their efforts by voting yes on Issue 2. During the past several years of difficult funding cuts, the library never asked for increased funds, and instead relied on prudent management. Now library leaders are attempting to provide stability for the Greene County system into the future.

“We’re constantly learning,” Colón said. “With feedback from the community, we hope we’re constantly improving.”

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