Sharpsburg Community Library cuts hours amid financial struggles
Sharpsburg Community Library is cutting its hours amid dire financial shape, leaders said during a Nov. 13 meeting.
Executive Director Jill McConnell and librarian Sara Mariacher hosted a public meeting where they spoke clearly about budget problems impacting the branch of the Cooper-Siegel Community Library.
“We’re being very transparent,” McConnell said. “It’s a situation that has been developing over the years.”
A digital presentation showed the 20 attendees graphs of the past five financial years. McConnell said 2015 was the only solid year that the Sharpsburg branch did not operate under a deficit.
Shortfalls in other years have been covered by cash reserves which are running low, she said.
There is a $27,000 proposed deficit this year, which amounts to the most significant loss.
Leaders said hours will be cut at the Main Street site to help balance the budget. It will save about $13,000.
As proposed, the Sharpsburg library will be open 25 hours a week, down from 30. Hours will be 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays. It will be closed Fridays and Sundays.
Reducing the hours will lower staffing costs, but no current employees will be let go, McConnell said.
Nor will any programming be cut.
“We know how much it costs to open the library each hour of the week,” McConnell said.
Jim Mitnick, library board president, said if the public wants additional hours it will require fundraising.
“We need a groundswell of support,” he said.
There is a multi-pronged action plan to address balancing future budgets, he said. The first step was decreasing hours and spending.
Next will be funnelling all undesignated donations to the branch. The library runs three appeals yearly.
Mitnick said Sharpsburg will no longer pay for expenses like database and licensing fees. These costs will be paid by Cooper-Seigel, which would have to pay the same amount whether or not Sharpsburg remains open.
McConnell emphasized the goal was to create sustainable funding so the branch can grow its mission even as expenses increase in the general economy.
Mariacher believes changes won’t be noticeable, except for the cut hours.
She hopes to start a dedicated fundraising group, similar to Friends of the Library, which works to benefit the main branch.
Mariacher sees Sharpsburg’s Friends as a viable group to raise money and awareness. She believes volunteers would come out to shelve books or run a sale.
McConnell and Mariacher said they will continue to search for grants and donations. The Women’s Board of Pittsburgh gave $57,000 two years ago to fund STEAM programs and many local groups have stepped forward with donations because the Sharpsburg library has grown to offer varied programs.
“We’re so much more than a book repository,” Mariacher said.
Mariacher said there has been a 19.8 percent increase in school-age circulation and book-lending for everyone is up 6.8 percent.
Former library board president Bryant Mitchell said, “We recognize how important this library is to the community.”
Sharpsburg is a community where 30 percent of residents don’t own a vehicle, but the library is on the bus line. It’s a safe place for kids and rooms are available to rent for meetings and parties, he said. It has 10
computers for community use and free WiFi and Internet.
Sharon Drake is a freelance writer.