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Small libraries merge to survive

– A growing number of Indiana’s smaller libraries are teaming up to share books and receive better deals as they face dwindling tax dollars. Some libraries are even merging to keep from closing their doors.

Consolidations can have financial benefits, such as by reducing technology and administrative costs, deputy state librarian Jim Corridan said.

He said merged libraries can cost less because they often don’t need two of everything, including administrators, subscriptions to the same databases or licenses for the same software.

All three of the libraries in Noble County in northeast Indiana already have book-sharing agreements, allowing residents to check out books, regardless of the district they live in. Those districts explored a merger in 2010 but decided against it over concerns about losing representation on the library board and a potential property tax increase.

The Decatur and Geneva libraries merged into Adams County Public Library in 2008 and have expanded services, director Kelly Ehinger said.

She said they were able to put more money toward buying books because of savings in bulk purchasing.

The consolidated library district did not save any money overall, however, because services were expanded and the four employees at the smaller Geneva branch previously had not received health and retirement benefits.