ShareThis Page
News

Westmoreland libraries contend with lack of state budget

Jacob Tierney
| Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
A sign hangs on the door to the Jeannette Public Library on Dec. 7, 2015 informing patrons that the library will be closed 'due to a lack of budget.'
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
A sign hangs on the door to the Jeannette Public Library on Dec. 7, 2015 informing patrons that the library will be closed 'due to a lack of budget.'

The Westmoreland Federated Library System, which provides services and support to 24 county libraries, will be out of money by the end of January unless a state budget is passed soon.

The district might have to lay off employees if the budget crisis continues, said Cesare Muccari, executive director of the library network. It also might have to eliminate the van service that ferries books and other materials between libraries.

Any reduction in services would impact the system's 106,000 cardholders. In 2014, the system circulated 1,227,419 items including books, DVDs and audio books, Muccari said.

The library district was supposed to receive its state funding, about $270,000, in July. That money hasn't arrived.

“We're in a period of unknown. We know nothing,” Muccari said.

Even if state leaders reach an agreement soon, it likely would take another month for payments to reach the library system, Muccari said. The district has only enough money to see it through January, and unless the state provides a quick infusion of cash, there likely will have to be cuts.

“If it isn't passed, then we're going to have to make some hard decisions in January,” he said.

The district is already behind on its annual payments to use Polaris ILS, the software system that handles library cards, user accounts and the online catalog across all 24 libraries. Polaris and the library system have reached a temporary deal allowing the library to make smaller payments, but Muccari said he doesn't know how much longer that will last or how libraries will cope if the system is deactivated.

Individual libraries haven't been hit quite as hard by the budget standoff. They get their money in January, and already received their state aid before the impasse began.

But the ongoing budget dispute means the network might soon be victim to a “double whammy,” Muccari said.

Not only has the district been operating without its usual state funds, the impasse could delay next month's usual aid to individual libraries.

The network's 24 libraries are expecting to split $940,000 in state aid among them. This is in addition to the $270,000 that the district as a whole was supposed to receive in July.

Some county libraries have been struggling for years to make ends meet, even with their standard state aid.

The Jeannette Public Library has been closed since Thanksgiving and will not reopen until Jan. 6. Library officials said last week that insufficient funds forced it to close.

Though state lawmakers have been inching closer to passing a budget, even a rapid agreement might be too late to avoid any damage to libraries' bottom lines.

“It's going to be hazy. Even if the budget is passed this week, then it has to go to the governor, and he's got to sign it,” Muccari said.

Libraries also don't know how much money to plan for, because they don't know whether the state budget will cut aid.

District leaders will weigh their options over the next month as they try to decide what to do if the state money doesn't come through, Muccari said.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me