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Budget cuts to public library systems statewide could mean loss of millions in Cuyahoga County

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Posted at 10:03 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 23:23:00-04

CLEVELAND — Libraries in Ohio are funded by a handful of sources: private donors, taxpayer dollars, and state funding.

The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed budget cuts to library systems statewide.

“The libraries offer a lot of resources to communities, especially low-income, needy communities,” Eppalonian Isaac said. “I am very saddened to hear about any cuts being done to library systems.”

Public libraries in the Buckeye State could be looking at a major loss if the budget is approved by the Ohio Senate.

“I bring my children to the library. They love the activities, the computers. Just that extra reading outside schoolwork is just a great service to have,” Nyasha Nyemba said. “The timing couldn't be much worse to cut it. At a time when society is ready to come out and use these resources, then you cut the budget. It is a bad idea for many reasons. It helps our children. It helps families. It even helps adults.”

Currently, public libraries in the state receive 1.7% of the state’s general revenue fund. However, under the recently approved biennial budget, libraries would only receive 1.66% of state funding.

“Doesn't sound like much, does it? But it actually represents $22 million for all the libraries across the state of Ohio,” Tracy Strobel said.

Strobel is the Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system and will testify before the State Senate Finance Committee Wednesday to advocate for libraries statewide.

“Here at Cuyahoga County Public Library, it's a million dollars and that is very meaningful and will make a significant impact on our budget,” Strobel said. “Offering Wi-Fi service for job seekers or students who are forced to learn remotely. We've served as locations for blood drives, for voting, for emergency food aid distribution, kids' school lunches.”

Library goers said adequately funding the institutions is more important now than ever.

“During this pandemic, teachers, students, and parents, they depend heavily on the use of the library,” Dr. Devorah Nafisah Abdul Rahim said. “Food and safety. You know, in some neighborhoods the library has served even as a safe haven for children.”

Iris Johnston said library cuts will further the digital divide across the state.

“It's sad that the state decides to cut money for our library system at this day and age. Especially when the library is being used more and more because of the pandemic. Our children are using it more. Seniors are using it more. We need to have the library system,” Johnston said. “It's a place where you can come and get movies and books and spend time on the computers because a lot of people don't have computers and don't have the broadband system.”

As the budget now lies in the hands of the Ohio Senate to negotiate its own version, library advocates plan to make their voices heard before a final draft of the budget lands on the desk of Gov. DeWine this summer.

“It’s a devastating piece of knowledge,” Nafisah Abdul Rahim said. “I think it should bring parents and educators and the whole community to action to protest the cuts because we can cut somewhere else.”