The Memorial Library of Nazareth and Vicinity faces a $56,000 shortfall in 2020 due to reduced budget disbursements primarily from Upper Nazareth Township ($48,000); as well as Lower Nazareth Township ($7,980). This budget deficit represents a 13 percent decrease of total municipal funding in the board approved 2020 library budget. After a long and careful review of options, the Library Board voted to reduce expenditures in several key areas of the library such as: staffing, technology, janitorial services, as well as in children and adult programs and services. “These decisions are very difficult because every area of the library budget that was cut impacts the community. The library staff opens the library six days a week and every morning people are waiting to come inside. They are counting on us to be there to help them. We are letting the community down by cutting these library services, but we have no choice given municipal cuts imposed upon us,” says Library Director, Holly Bennett. The library was forced to cut its human resource budget by 8 percent and consequently made changes to its staffing model. The overall library staff was reduced by 20 percent .
These changes primarily impact the services offered by the library’s children’s department. Due to these changes, effective March 1, the children’s department will close an hour earlier at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. In addition, beginning March 1, the library will no longer provide offsite story time programming at several local preschools, there will no longer be weekly story times at Lower Nazareth Township Municipal building, craft and story times at Upper Nazareth Township’s Tuskes Community Park in the summer and fall will be eliminated, and the library will no longer be able to participate in select community events that encourage basic literacy to children. In addition, the library’s technology budget was decreased by 19 percent for 2020. The Memorial Library of Nazareth and Vicinity will discontinue offering Rosetta Stone, the online language tool that offered language instruction in over 30 languages both by remote access and in-library use to library patrons. The library will also postpone upgrading several public computers.
Another area that will be affected is janitorial services. The library will reduce the library cleanings from four days a week to three, and small building maintenance projects will be postponed until 2021. The budget for library programming is being reduced by 23 percent from the original 2020 library budget passed by the Library Board of Directors in December 2019. These reductions will include modified programming during the annual summer reading program that typically services over 300 children each year. “By curtailing the summer reading program, the library will struggle to keep our children engaged throughout the two months that they are not in school. The library is supposed to be here to help prevent summer slide. This will be a challenge given the budget reductions,” says Bennett. Adult cooking and painting classes, musical programming, and historical reenactments are also being reduced.
Other areas that are affected by the $56,000 shortfall include a 5 percent reduction in the staff’s professional development budget and the originally small budget to replace library furniture and equipment. “Even with the financial set-backs, we are not giving up,” says Bennett. “The library will continue to be a hub for digital intelligence, civic engagement, and a space for people to meet, read, work and play. We will continue to educate our local municipal leaders on the importance this organization has to its residents and why their financial support is critical.” The budget cuts create unique challenges to the Memorial Library of Nazareth and Vicinity to maintain the standards recently achieved and recognized by the Pennsylvania Library Association as a Gold Star Library.