From The Olympian:
The Washington State Library is reducing its hours for the public by nearly half starting next week, the result of cutting two positions. The cuts are part of the library’s plan to meet a $1 million funding shortfall over the next year.
The library won’t be open mornings any longer but those who walk into the Tumwater facility will still get help between noon and 5 p.m. each day when the reductions begin June 16.
Officials say 16,875 patrons used the library in person in 2013, which averaged a little over 67 people per day, and peak usage comes in the afternoon. The library also handled 7,000 email requests for information, 763 chat requests and 435 queries by phone last year.
“We have been doing planning to address the budget reductions for several months,” State librarian Rand Simmons Simmons said Monday. “Hope springs eternal. We thought it would turn around when the spring came. It didn’t.”
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The dedicated fund that finances Library operations now projects a potential shortfall of more than $1 million, due primarily to an unexpected slump in the number of recording fees collected by county auditors. This is on top of a $664,000 budget cut that was required at the beginning of the biennium, following a decade budget and staff reductions.
“The State Library staff have become more efficient in their operations over the past 10 years, providing the same general level of services while reducing employee count by 42 percent. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, whose office hosts the Library said, “We have reached the point where we must reduce our in-person hours at the central library, at least temporarily, because of additional staff cuts.”
“The State Library has been a core service of government for 160 years, but for some years now, it has been a struggle to survive. In the past decade, state support has dropped by 42 percent and staff levels have shrunk from 158 to 63 today.”
Wyman acknowledged that recent library usage around the country is turning to online access, rather than solely relying on a brick-and-mortar library building. The State Library is committed to service excellence to all customers, whether online or in-person, and is working to make more of its collections available online, she said.
“We are busy transforming the State Library information services, meeting people where they live,” Wyman said. “As the old saying goes, crisis meets opportunity. We intend to be the model Library of the 21st Century.”