30 library jobs could be lost in budget cuts Board is asked to trim $643,000 from '96-'97 spending

Final plan still undecided

Hours of operation could be reduced from 60 to 40 a week

March 01, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

As many as 30 workers could lose their jobs as the Carroll County library system struggles to trim its budget by $643,000.

The library board, responding to a $5 million shortfall in the county's operating budget, is being asked to cut 14 percent of its $4.5 million spending plan for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Besides eliminating staff positions, the seven-member board is looking at cutting hours at its Westminster and other four branches by 33 percent or about 20 hours a week, said Robert Sapora, library board president.

The county's libraries now are open 60 hours a week.

"This is the most definite we can be at this time. We don't want to be alarmists, but at the same time we want to be realistic," Mr. Sapora said. "We're in the middle of the process now and something still needs to be determined. There are some budget features that are still up in the air."

Mr. Sapora said he could not be more specific about which staff positions would be cut under such measuresbecause of "protection of the privacy of staff in our library system."

Salaries for the system's 200 full- and part-time employees account for about $3.7 million of the library budget.

"The board has not come to a conclusion on what the final plans would be," said Linda Mielke, library director. "With this huge of a cut we're looking at cutting staff and hours and we may cut other services."

Mr. Sapora called the proposed staff reductions and reduced hours the "worst-case scenario." The library has never had to cut staff.

Board members are less likely to cut the library's acquisition budget because the system already had fallen behind in the purchase of new books and other materials in the past four years, he said.

"We were hoping to catch up a little and get some more acquisitions," Mr. Sapora said. "If we cut acquisitions any further, we couldn't pretend to be a functioning library.

"It's obviously a budget item that could be looked at. But once you get your doors open, you have to have something on the FTC shelf for people to pick up," he added.

To inform the public about the possible cuts, displays have been placed on service counters in all the libraries. Board members are asking patrons for their comments on the proposed cuts and library services.

"It's very sad, frustrating and depressing, but realistic," Mr. Sapora said. "As very fervent supporters of the library and the mission of the library, we're making every effort to minimize the losses."

Carroll's libraries have the highest circulation rates in Maryland. Nearly 80 percent of the county's population -- about 101,000 people -- have active library cards. Last year, 2.8 million items -- books, periodicals, cassettes, videos, compact discs and other materials -- were borrowed.

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