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Indiana libraries closing doors, cutting hours

GREENWOOD — Indiana libraries are delaying repairs, limiting purchases of new material and closing their doors as they bow under the weight of statewide property tax caps and declining revenue.

The Johnson County and Greenwood library systems face shortfalls of about 10 percent next year. Edinburgh plans to spend 5 percent less next year. And two branches of the Hammond Public Library system have closed while facing a $1.2 million shortfall.

The changes are the latest to hit the state's libraries, which have been reducing hours, cutting employees and taking other steps to offset the loss of revenue from the tax caps and the struggling economy.

"We've had to do more with less," said Cathy Hamm, director of the Edinburgh library.

Hamm told the Daily Journal her facility doesn't expect a shortfall next year but reduced its 2010 budget by about $12,000, or 5 percent, after not bringing in enough money this year.

The cuts include eliminating subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, laying off a part-time employee and cutting four hours a week.

Johnson County library officials say they expect to buy fewer books and other materials but don't know how many fewer at this point. The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance informed the libraries about the projected shortfalls after they approved their 2012 budgets, so they'll have to go back and adjust spending.

Several libraries are turning to private fundraising to pay for programs, including children's story time. Johnson County is doing a marketing campaign to promote the value its libraries offer to the community. The campaign focuses on the services the library provides while soliciting donations, director Beverly Martin said. She said another option is to raise money through special events, such as talks by high-profile authors.

Martin said the library system also plans to have an employee plow parking lots this winter and will not make any upgrades at its current branches, including replacing furniture, carpets, boilers and mechanical equipment — some of which is more than 25 years old.

"A lot of it is what we won't be able to do or will have to put off," she said. "We've got chairs with holes that we can't replace."

Hammond Public Library Director René Greenleaf said residents need to speak up and donate to rally support for libraries. Two of Hammond's branches have closed because of tax caps, a frozen tax levy in Lake County and low collection rates.

"The Hammond Public Library isn't the only library cutting hours," Greenleaf told The Times in Munster. "All of us have been affected by the economy."

But there is some good news, at least in South Bend.

Starting in January, all St. Joseph county Public Library locations will resume Saturday hours.

Library officials plan to hire part-time staff members to work a total of 16 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Library Director Donald Napoli told the South Bend Tribune he is confident the library system can handle the estimated $100,000 annual cost because its revenue has exceeded its expenses this year and last year. The library has also launched a fundraising drive.