When budget cuts hit, one option is to find new sources of revenue to make up the difference.
But that rarely takes care of the entire problem. It’s harder to make money than it is to cut back, and so part of local libraries’ individual plans to save money has involved reducing library hours.
The New Cumberland Library is closed on Fridays and Sundays. The John Graham Library in Newville is closed Sundays.
But those closures don’t have to be permanent.
In 2010, Amelia Givin Library closed its doors on Thursdays while also slashing its weeknight hours. Director Cynthia Thompson says the decision was tied directly to a big cut in state funding in 2009.
“That was a big blow, and at that time we cut back pretty significantly,” she says. “Previously we’d been open till 9 on weeknights. Then we moved to 8 on weeknights and closed all day on Thursdays.”
After cutting the hours, Thompson, her staff and her board of directors made a concerted effort to increase fundraising and cut back on other expenses.
One thing the library has saved on is buying new materials, which Thompson regrets. But by making those tough decisions, she was able to restore Thursday hours within a year.
Thompson says a silver lining to the whole experience was the reaction from the community. Far from being upset about the hours being cut, they were understanding — and responsive.
“They understood [the reduction] was through no fault of ours,” Thompson says. “When we tried to increase fundraising, people really responded. They wanted to help, even if it was just to do it in small ways. We got $25 donations, a lot of those, and they added up to equal a bigger donation. People really did what they could.”
Thompson notes the library is still only open until 4 p.m. on Thursdays, closing four hours earlier than other nights.
“It’s definitely something we’d love to be able to restore in the future, but I don’t see that happening any time soon,” she says.