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Mid-summer funding boost helps libraries
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After budget cuts led the Liberty County school district to eliminate its financial support for the area’s library branches, library officials responded to the shortfall by reducing hours for Hinesville and Midway-Riceboro locations and by cutting the collections budget. However, a mid-summer boost from the Liberty County Board of Commissioners will help the Hinesville library extend its hours again after Labor Day.
Christian Kruse, director of Live Oak Public Libraries, said the $160,000 funding cut meant reducing hours at the Hinesville branch from 70 hours a week to 60 hours and taking the Midway/Riceboro branch from 30 hours a week to 25 hours.  
“Our collections budget was also reduced from $90,000 to $50,000. This means that fewer books will be purchased and it will take longer to get a popular or bestseller title,” Kruse said.
“Both of these actions began July 1,” he said. “In mid-July we were notified that Liberty County had increased our funding by $76,000. We have requested additional funding from the city of Hinesville but will not know the outcome until late September or early October.”
The reduced hours did generate some complaints from patrons, Kruse said, particularly as Sunday hours were eliminated in Hinesville. However, he said, “We anticipate having the same, or greater, [patron] circulation this year, even with reduced hours.”
With the increase in funding from county commissioners, the library system now will be able to expand operating hours at the Hinesville branch beginning Sept. 7. Midway’s hours will remain the same.
Additionally, Kruse said, “this gives us an opportunity to fill a position that was left vacant after the budget cuts. We will also be adding some money back to the collections budget.”
Public libraries statewide are feeling the economic pinch. System cuts were included in the fiscal year 2010 state budget recommendation submitted by Gov. Sonny Perdue. A Georgia Public Library Service statement released in June said the state’s public libraries maintained state-level funding for fiscal year 2011, avoiding further painful reductions to already-strained budgets.
“The total state funding of $35,051,419 includes a small increase reflecting the state’s population formula,” said Julie Walker, deputy state librarian.
“Libraries and GPLS will still struggle to sustain operating hours and services with budgets that are at least 20 percent below two years ago,” Walker said. “But we feel fortunate to have escaped additional budget reductions, and we are grateful to our legislators for recognizing the increasingly essential roles that public libraries play in communities across Georgia.”
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