After budget cuts, Johnston’s library perseveres

By RORY SCHULER
Posted 7/23/21

Libraries are incredibly important to the communities they serve.

Volunteers are incredibly important to the libraries they serve.

Following a decision by town government to cut the budget at …

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After budget cuts, Johnston’s library perseveres

Posted

Libraries are incredibly important to the communities they serve.

Volunteers are incredibly important to the libraries they serve.

Following a decision by town government to cut the budget at the Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library, the need for volunteers, and patrons, has never been so great.

“With less budget, it's of course a challenge, but I'm confident we can find ways to give people what they need,” said library director Jon Anderson. “We were always looking for new ways to expand, rather than scale back service, and we may not be able to do everything we had hoped.”

Kathie Lombardo sat in the children’s department of the library on Tuesday morning, using scissors to cut shapes in orange construction paper.

Lombardo has been instrumental in crafting brightly colored, instructional bulletin board displays throughout the library.

“I was so impressed when I first started coming here,” she said, seated next to Children’s Librarian Meri Carney. “There are so many programs for children of all different ages.”

As a child, Lombardo loved her local library.

“When I was growing up, I lived in the library,” she recalled. “But I never had all the resources they have here.”

The town budget, approved last month, included increases for the fire, police and school departments.

As he implemented the town’s first property tax increase since 2017, Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena said he was forced to make some cuts as well, to balance the budget.

The library budget faced a bigger cut than any other department. Anderson saw town funds shrink 17 percent, which equates to about $130,000 less funding this year than last.

After he presented his budget proposal, Polisena said several open positions in the library department will remain unfilled through 2022.

“The Library eliminated one full-time position, Assistant Director,” Anderson said this week. “Some part-time clerical positions that were vacant will remain unfilled.”

Finally fully reopened after the COVID pandemic, the library has seen print circulation drop by approximately half over the past year.

“Print circulation is falling off in all libraries,” he said, while giving a tour of the library facilities. “I’m sure it will increase again.”

The library has started hosting its reading program again, and story hours are back on the schedule.

The library’s full slate of programs, however, has yet to be finalized.

“Exactly what we do remains to be decided,” Anderson said. “I would like to hear from the public if there is anything they'd like us to do, and we'll try.”

Anderson remained optimistic, despite the budget cuts.

“We have to be positive and patient,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can with what we have.”

The library has 12 employees, six part-time and six full-time.

“We will definitely continue to provide the many programs and services described on our website, and hope to add to those,” Anderson said, reciting the library’s mission statement. “Our mission is still to provide resources ‘for patrons to gain enrichment, become informed, and pursue their goals’ and all library staff will work hard to satisfy that mission.”

ON THE WEB

For more information about programs at the Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library, visit www.mohrlibrary.org.

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