The Hokah Public Library expects to end service on Saturdays, said Library Director Shari Carlson after the City Council voted to cut $5,099 from the library’s 2018 tax levy at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Although the library board has yet to finalize its 2018 budget, Carlson said that along with making other adjustments after the cutback, it’s likely the library will trim weekly hours from 28 to 25 by closing on Saturdays. Southeast Libraries Cooperating requires branches to be open at least 25 hours a week.
The budget cuts also mean the library won’t be renewing its technology support contract with SELCO.
“That kind of just keeps our technology running and debugged,” Carlson said. “So we’ll no longer have that protection.”
The cuts stunned library board members when there were announced at the Dec. 5 Truth in Taxation meeting.
The library will also receive approximately $3,000 less funding from Houston County than it did in 2017.
Carlson said the county disperses funding to the five libraries in Houston County based on circulation. The highest circulated branches get the most funding. Circulation is defined by the number of items that get checked out by the library.
“It’s an ineffective measure, because circulation is really just a small portion of what goes on at the library,” Carlson said, adding that a library card is not required to visit the library. “We have lots of people that come in and don’t check out any books. They come in to use their computers, have a space to work or because they want to do activities with other people.”
Carlson said the library plans to freeze spending on updates to its reference collection and technology. She said the reduced budget has made the board consider new ways to increase its revenue.
She said stricter fine forgiveness policies may be on the table. These debts are often cleared in a sign of goodwill.
“That might be something we need to examine,” Carlson said.
Although the library’s budget is tight, Carlson was grateful only weekend programming would be affected. Grants already secured by Carlson have set the library up with enough programming material for years to come.
“We have a ton of great events coming up,” Carlson said.
She said the library will be bringing theater to Hokah with the Appleseed Community Theater, and will introducing more adult programming beginning next year. She added the number of committed volunteers the library has, mostly consisting of retired residents, makes her feel confident the library will weather the storm.
Hokah Fire Chief and Councilman Matt Vetsch, who proposed the cut to library funding, said he believed that technology has replaced most of the library’s resources.
“Libraries are, in my opinion, something that you don’t need to have, and are more of a want than a need,” said Vetsch. “There’s only a certain amount of people that use it and go in there. I’m not really sure why, either.”
Carlson disagrees that Vetsch’s view of the library, as a nonessential agency, mirrors public opinion.
“I think the library remains to be one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know, and a lot of the critics of the library are the same people who’ve never come utilize this resource,” Carlson said. “They have no idea the scope it provides for the community, and that it’s not just for the tangible things like an art project, or checking out books but truly a community center for everybody.”
Carlson said that people often come into the library just to be around other people, and that last week an older woman came in just so she could write out her Christmas letter.
“I see people from our community after they’ve had major medical issues, or have just lost a spouse — and they come in just to be somewhere with other people,” Carlson said. “Maybe they are living alone, or have nobody to talk to, and we don’t have a lot of other places in Hokah for them to come and socialize.”