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Columbus Library Prepares For Possible Budget Cut

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Columbus Neighborhoods
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The Columbus Metropolitan Library downtown branch.

Ohio’s libraries say they’ll lose money if the state budget stays as is – and they won’t share in the billions that the state and local governments will get from the American Rescue Plan.

Jay Smith of the Ohio Library Council said libraries are getting no direct COVID relief money but will share the $200 million distributed to libraries nationwide.

“Of that amount, the state of Ohio is receiving $4.5 million to divide amongst university and academic libraries, K-12 libraries, prison libraries, and public libraries,” he said.

The state budget would cut funding for the state’s libraries from 1.7% to 1.66% of Ohio's general revenue fund.

But the Ohio Library Council stated that half of its members’ funding comes from the state, and it would be a difference of $22 million in 2 years. Columbus Metropolitan Library estimates it would mean a $1.5 million loss.

“Most libraries are seeing additional service requests from our community, that’s going to happen as we come out of the pandemic,” said Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO Pat Losinki. “And we just want to be prepared with the level of funding that we’ve had in the last two years.”

In-person patronage has been down as libraries had to limit capacity in the last year. But Losinki said that as normal life resumes, libraries will be much more than book repositories.

“Many people who do not have access to broadband are relying on the libraries’ computers,” he said. “[There’s] document delivery, meeting room use, study room use, and people utilizing the library to come in for the traditional collections.”

If anything, Losinki said, the library has become more essential in the last year.

“Public libraries are an integral part of the fabric of people’s lives in Central Ohio. As we see more vaccines and the positivity rates decline, we’re going to see not only return to those levels but in certain areas, there’s going to be heightened demand, things like job service and employment issues.”

And Smith, of the Ohio Library Council, said since library aid is tied to the overall state general revenue fund, libraries will get less with the 2% income tax cut in the budget, which some lawmakers say could be increased.