by David Ammons | June 9th, 2014
Starting Monday, June 16, in-person service hours at the main Washington State Library in Tumwater will be reduced by four hours a day as the service-and-research institution grapples with continuing significant budget challenges.
The Library at 6880 Capitol Blvd. in Tumwater traditionally has been open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But the library faces a million-dollar shortfall that must be addressed through layoffs and fewer direct service hours, State Librarian Rand Simmons said Monday.
The dedicated fund that finances Library operations now projects a potential shortfall of more than $1 million, due primarily to an unexpected slump in the number of recording fees collected by county auditors. This is on top of a $664,000 budget cut that was required at the beginning of the biennium, following a decade of budget and staff reductions.
Beginning June 16, the central Library will be open daily from noon to 5 p.m. for walk-in patrons. Chat and email help will still be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Secretary of State Wyman said the staff has become more efficient in their operations over the past 10 years, providing the same general level of services while reducing our employee count by 42 percent. But she said the latest revenue shortfall is forcing the Library to reduce in-person hours at the central library, at least temporarily, because of additional staff cuts.
Instead of 45 hours of in-person service each week, it will be 25 hours.
The shorter hours in Tumwater do not affect the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in Seattle or the institutional libraries at state hospitals and corrections centers. Grants to local libraries, a central role of the Washington State Library, will be maintained, and the State Library-Microsoft IT Academy will not be affected.
Wyman said that for the 2013-15 biennium, the Library was moved from the General Fund into the dedicated account legislators previously created for funding construction of a new state Heritage Center to house the Library and State Archives. The HC account was over $660,000 shy of meeting the current-level funding of the Library, and so cutbacks were ordered last year.
The appropriation from the entire Heritage Center capital account was supposed to cover the remainder of the Library’s state funding, but one of the account’s main sources, filing fees collected by county auditors on real estate transactions and other services, are falling short of projections.
The housing market and the number of transactions have declined significantly in Washington and nationally in recent months, due largely to a reduction in refinancing of mortgages. If the trend line continues, Library funding could face a shortfall of over $1 million below the authorized spending level of about $9 million.
Wyman will urge the Legislature to create stable funding for this core service to the people of Washington.