January 18, 2011

Library Director: Cost of cuts will be high

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Cuts to the town’s library services could affect countless residents who rely on the facility for Internet services, job-searching assistance and economical recreation, Library Director Barbara Ostertag-Holtkamp told the Town Council Monday night during a public hearing on the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Leach Library is facing a proposed budget cut of around $33,000, with its budget for the current year at $1,304,304 and a proposed budget of $1,271,082 on the table for Fiscal Year 2012.
“You have to think about what you’re actually cutting,” Ostertag-Holtkamp told the council last night. “You’re trying to keep a flat tax rate because the economy is bad. Think about what you’re actually doing. Actually this would make library less accessible for those who use the library to come in and search for jobs, to meet
their neighbors, to come in and talk. You’re hurting the people you’re trying to help by keeping a flat tax rate.” 
Resident Cindy Eaton urged town officials to consider alternatives to library cuts. 
“To my knowledge almost every year the library gets cut, yet the library keeps growing,” she said. “More and more people are using the library. I strongly disagree with people who think the library will become no longer needed. A lot of people prefer reading books. There’s a lot of us out there.” 
The library has 10 part-time staff members, eight who work a 28-hour week and two who work a 12-hour week. There are 10 full-time staff members, and the library is currently open six days a week, as it is closed on Sundays. Ostertag-Holtkamp said the cuts would likely result in a reduction of part-time staff members and could ultimately cause the facility to shut its doors on Saturdays. 
“This would affect many people who work long weekdays and frequent the library on weekends,” Eaton said. 
Not everyone felt the proposed cuts were unreasonable, in light of the current economy. 
“I know its difficult to cut the library. On the other hand, our whole state is looking at cuts, and it has to start at a local level,” resident Martin Srugis said. “This is a tough choice, but I think it’s the right one to make. Personally, I have let my library card lapse because I use the Internet. The library is slowly becoming obsolete and is going to eventually become replaced by computers.” 
Councilor John Farrell said: “I respect the library, but every other department has come in here and has sacrificed. We are asking for less from the library than from anybody else.” 
Councilor Tom Dolan said 2012 is the first time in recent memory the fiscal year budget for the library was expected to go down. 
“The number that’s delivered, yes, it’s painful and the library trustees will have to deal with that,” Councilor Mike Brown said. “But they will ultimately decide where reductions are made. It’s definitely difficult.” 
The town’s final budget public hearing is on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Moose Hill Council Chambers at Town Hall. 

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