Library grows, but funding shrinks
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS S.S. Palmer Elementary sixth-graders John Iles (front) and John Blichar (right) speak of their love for the Lehigh Gap Nature Center as part of the collaboration between it and the school district as instructor Bethany Rowands (center) looks on.
While its attendance and circulation continues to grow, the amount of state funding the Palmerton Area Library receives continues to diminish.
That was the message shared by Diane Danielson, library director, as part of a presentation before the school board on Tuesday.
"I'd like to thank the Palmerton Area School District for all the financial support you've given the Palmerton Area Library in the past," Danielson said. "Our attendance is up, the use of our computers is up, but we have to do this with less and less money."
Attendance as of 2009 was up to 47,425, up 6,137 from 2008; total circulation rose to 43,457, up 1,354; and computer usage soared to 6,934, up 2,433, Danielson said.
"Our budget is about $200,000," She said. "The money you provide to the library is used very wisely."
What makes matters worse, Danielson said, is that the library will only receive $37,000 in state aid next year, down $10,930 from the 2010 proposed figure.
"Even though the state is decreasing the amount they're giving us, we still have to uphold our services," she said. "The school district and the four municipalities that support us, if any of them decreases what they give in any given year, the state can cut us off."
Danielson said no state funds for a library will be approved if it projects a decrease in local government support for normal, recurring, operation costs from a previous level.
"We do try hard, and the board has been working hard to try and fill in the gap to make more money, but we really need the help of the school board," she said. "The money we receive from the school board is very important."
Board President Barry Scherer said he could empathize with the library.
"A lot of us take it for granted," Scherer said. "It's certainly providing a valuable service."
Also on Tuesday, the board heard from Dan Kunkle, director of the Wildlife Information Center, along with several students from S.S. Palmer Elementary.
Kunkle spoke of the partnership that has developed between the Nature Center and the district.
"One of our goals was to involve the school districts with the Wildlife Information Center; especially Palmerton, and its heritage with the Zinc Company," Kunkle said. "And by the way; you have a great library, and a great library staff."
Kunkle told the board the town is famous for its "legacy as a Superfund site."
"We are developing programs with your teachers," he said. "We were fortunate enough in those first six years because Palmerton Area School District didn't have to pay a cent; PPL paid for the bus trips and field trips."
Bethany Rowland, a sixth-grade teacher at S.S. Palmer Elementary, then gave a glowing account of the collaboration between the district and the Nature Center.
Rowland said the educational trips have been implemented to supplement the school's science curriculum.
She then introduced two sixth-grade students, John Iles and John Blichar, who anxiously spoke about a field trip they took.
"I enjoyed the field trip so much," Iles said. "It's part of my town's history."
Blichar said he enjoyed the sight of the golden eagle, as well as forest ecology, in general.
Rowland said the Nature Center is "right in our back yard; it's important to use it."
"It's beneficial for our students to be able to take these field trips," Rowland said. "I've never seen my students so actively engaged in learning.
Superintendent Carol Boyce said the Nature Center is a real plus for the district.
"All of our elementary teachers from both schools attend the Nature Center," Boyce said. "In the past, Towamensing never had the chance, so we're delighted for them to have that opportunity."
Also under her report, Boyce said each of the buildings in the district participated in Veterans Day services last week.
"It was our hope to honor these courageous men, and we're thankful to the veterans for their willingness to share their stories," Boyce said. "I think it was a day well remembered through educational things."
Finally, Boyce announced that through the McCall grant, a high school lab will receive new tables, while junior high science rooms will be added in the spring.