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Library funds hurting Pa. budget cuts hurt Lehighton project plans

  • Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Jim Blakeslee, left, president of the Lehighton Area Library Board of Directors, and Becky Wanamaker, librarian, stand behind desk which library board members would like to replace. Tight finances present not only the…
    Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Jim Blakeslee, left, president of the Lehighton Area Library Board of Directors, and Becky Wanamaker, librarian, stand behind desk which library board members would like to replace. Tight finances present not only the replacement of the desk, but an addition to the facility.
Published February 06. 2010 09:00AM

Jim Blakeslee, president of the Lehighton Area Library Board, was in a great mood when the board's meeting began Thursday night but his optimism soon changed.

"We all ended up being emotionally distraught by the end of the meeting," Blakeslee said of the board. "We were just overwhelmed."

Causing the mood change was presentation of a financial report that showed state funding had decreased by 20 percent from last year. The cutback in state funds totals $6,704 less than the previous year.

The news put a damper on the board's plans to add a children's wing and meeting room to the rear of the library.

Blakeslee said those plans have been put on hold and that the emphasis will have to be put on fundraising and making sure that loyal supporters continue backing the library.

Statistics presented to the library board by Becky Wanamaker, librarian, showed that the library is used heavily. Attendance totaled 21,506 during the year, with 15,261 of those visitors being adults.

Wanamaker, a master librarian, said the computers allow free Internet access and are especially popular.

The library presently has 5,094 members, with 678 new members added during the past year.

"We need money," Blakeslee said bluntly. "We went through the budget and cut back where we could. We have constant things like health care and salaries, but we cut back on purchasing books and magazines."

He said cuts have been made but the last the last thing the board wants to do is to cut hours.

Blakeslee said last year the board met with architect Ben Walbert of Jim Thorpe and discussed the construction of a new wing. The board admitted this week that due especially to the economy, "we have to sit on it for awhile."

The board president said priority will be given to replacing a rubber roof which has had some leaks and fluorescent lighting which presently has 36 burned-out bulbs. Some of the lighting also needs new ballasts.

Initially it was hoped a new roof and lighting system could be installed when the wing was built, but the roof is a priority.

Blakeslee said the board would also like to improve the interior ambience, including replacing a desk that has been located in the building since it opened.

It is hoped that some cabinet contractor comes forward and donates a desk or constructs a new one.

The library doesn't have a fund-raising committee at the present time and Blakeslee hopes one becomes active. There had been a "Friends of the Library" organization but that became dormant because nobody wanted to assume the leadership role.

Blakeslee said the members of that organization still help with special projects.

Wanamaker, putting the delay of the building project into perspective, said, "We need to concentrate on what we are doing."

The library has one full-time librarian and seven part-time employees. There also are a few volunteers.

Blakeslee said he will be visiting with various organizations in an effort to win some financial support for the library.

"The library is used harder than ever," said Blakeslee, noting that besides the computers and books, it also has movies for borrowing as well as photo copying and faxing services.

Income tax forms are also available at the facility.

Wanamaker was optimistic about the future of the library.

"We're not going away. As bleak as things are, we'll continue to serve the people," she said.

Blakeslee said most of the funding for the library comes from donations from the municipalities it serves and organizations.

Many people donate books in memory of deceased relatives and friends.

The library has a capital fund created from bequests. Blakeslee said that to cover 2009 expenses, $12,500 had to be transferred from this fund.

Presently there are four computers at the library which are used constantly.

"We could use more but we don't have the room," Blakeslee said.

"We have a supportive community," Blakeslee said. "We have people who are very generous and hope they continue to be generous."

He said he will be visiting numerous organizations in an effort to find new avenues of support.

"Last year we raised $12,000 to $13,000 in fund raising," he said. "We want to exceed that this year. We really need the funds."

The Lehighton Memorial Library is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 1:30-8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information on donating to the library or placing a memorial book, call the library at 610-377-2750.

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