Not a happy ending: Library faces decisions after state funding cuts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

NATCHEZ — After lawmakers slashed state funding to libraries, the local Natchez library is facing a $10,000 budget cut.

Judge George W. Armstrong Library Executive Director Pamela Plummer said she received notification of the cuts, but has not gone into details with the library board about how the cuts may affect services.

“Just looking at (it now), books will be one of the main budget items (affected),” Plummer said.

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The library has standing orders it is obligated to receive, but will likely not be ordering new books or audiobooks because of the funding cuts. Special book request orders by patrons will also likely not be able to be filled.

Library services should remain the same through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

“This will affect our 2016-17 fiscal year, and there is a great possibility we will lose a staff member,” Plummer said.

Staffing cuts will be a last resort, Plummer said. Office supply expenses will also be curtailed in light of the cuts, she said, and all programming will be evaluated to see what can be cut to save money.

The library’s overall operating budget is approximately $300,000, Plummer said, the majority of which is funded by the City of Natchez.

“We are going to do the best we can with what we have,” Plummer said.

Statewide, public libraries are facing having to close their doors or cut services because of funding cuts, Mississippi Library Commission Executive Director Susan Cassagne said.

The allocation for the commission is approximately $10.5 million. Last fiscal year’s allocation was $11.5 million.

The biggest impact will be on the Personnel Incentive Grant Program, which helps libraries pay salaries and buy new materials, Cassagne said.

State funding cuts also jeopardize federal funding the library commission receives, Cassagne said, because the commission has to maintain a certain percentage of state funding in order to receive federal funds.

“If we drop below that level of state funding, we jeopardize our federal funds,” Cassagne said.

Many of the commission’s expenses are mandated expenses, including state health insurance and an educational program called MAGNOLIA.

Cassagne was formerly the director for the Armstrong Library, and said she understands what local library directors are facing.

“I know first-hand, and it’s a situation no one wants to be in,” she said. “We are not happy about it one bit.”