Montgomery County libraries could face cuts

Vladimir Tranquille said his local Montgomery County library is invaluable as he searches for a job. He goes to the library at least twice a day and spends upwards of two hours on a computer.

He said he also turns to library staff for help and guidance. Librarians are turning into workforce development specialists--they are getting more and more questions from patrons who are wanting to get more information about how to write a resume how to apply for a federal job.

Even with more community members at the library – with an average of eight million visitors annually – the department is being asked to cut back for the fourth year in a row. The FY 2012 budget recommendation is a 9.7 percent decrease from FY2011 levels. The Montgomery County executive recommends a cut of $2.8 million in spending.

Library officials said that could mean dozens of jobs lost and impacts on services.

One of the biggest impacts will be on materials. This means that when you go to the library, you won’t be able to find the books, CDs, DVDs and other material on the shelves. Or you'll have to get in a line of 170 people before you check out a book you want to read.

“The library system is already doing more with less--due to last year's budget cuts, there was a four-month period where no new books were purchased, and the effects of that decision are still being felt,” said Kathy Park of Rockville, Md.

This time around, jobs are back on the chopping block. The proposed 2012 budget puts 32 library positions forward for cutting.

But a Thursday committee meeting offered some promising news for the library community.

Councilmembers Craig Rice, Nancy Navarro and George Leventhal said libraries are resources that need to be saved.

“i cannot support this current budget as proposed by the county executive,” said Rice.

After shuffling the numbers, the committee hopes to restore some funding – including half a million dollars for books and materials plus nearly $1.3 million for staffing.

“The libraries play a major role because their utilization has really changed and so we do have to begin to articulate the role of libraries,” Navarro said.