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Libraries Fight Proposed Cuts

Library folks are normally on the quite side . But not this week. This is the message you get when you call the Columbus Metropolitan Library's main number:

"Thanks for calling the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Please listen to an urgent message. Governor Strickland has proposed elimination of over $200 million from the Public Library Fund over the next two years "

And if you go to the Library's webpage, it directs users to contact their local General Assembly Representative or the Governor's office to protest the proposed cuts. The library has flooded users with e-mails. It has posted urgent Facebook messages.

Patrick Losinski directs the Columbus Libraries.

"This is such a dramatic change that it's really important that we use all of our resources to make sure that our customers know about this. Because customers have the opportunity to perhaps reverse what's been proposed," says Losinski.

Losinski says that, through the library's homepage, 11,000 messages have been sent to the Governor and various legislators in the last 24 hours.

The movement stretches statewide. That Facebook group - "Save Ohio's Libraries"? By 5pm it already had nearly 9,000 members.

The libraries' campaign seems to be raising awareness. The Governor's press secretary, Amanda Wurst, says her office has received many calls and emails regarding library cuts. But she says it isn't a question of the worthiness of the program.

"These are extraordinarily difficult decisions. But tough choices are required to avoid a tax increase that would hurt Ohio families and businesses, and perhaps prolong Ohio's recession," says Wurst.

Library Director Losinski says that the proposed cuts would mean a loss of $11 million dollars per year for his system - and that would mean cutting materials, jobs , and even closing branches. He says that this loss comes on top of a projected 20% decrease in funds that libraries were already trying to absorb.

Wallace Tillman of Columbus goes to the Main Library on Grant Street 3 to 4 times per week to use the computers and check out books. He thinks libraries should be a priority.

"Education's very important. And if they're thinking about cutting the library, then they don't want people to get knowledge. The other thing is, this the last thing they should be cutting," says Tillman.

Isabelle Kertis - sixteen - is from Whitehall. She was visiting the library with her mother. She worries the system might have to close branches.

"That is not going to be beneficial at all, I'll be honest there. Those branches they're closing off might be the only access to libraries some people have. If those close up, then what are they going to do?" says Kertis.

Press Secretary Wurst says that the cuts are not set in stone. "The Governor put forth this framework to serve as a starting point, not an ending point, by the Ohio legislature, as they work to fill a $3.2 billion budget gap by June 30th," she says.

Columbus Metro Libraries have ranked number one in the nation by Hennen's American Public Library Rankings three times in the last ten years, including this year.