York County Libraries halts advocacy campaign, applies for state grants
After months of "spirited dialogue" between library supporters and county commissioners about restoring cut funding, library officials are moving on to other endeavors.
York County commissioners voted in December to approve an ordinance that reduced county funding to York County Library Systems by about $300,000.
Following that vote, the libraries reduced operating hours, books and services, and the commissioners heard from a steady stream of disgruntled library supporters at their bimonthly meetings urging them to change their minds.
Robert Lambert, president of the county library system, also warned that the cuts could put the libraries in danger of losing $1.6 million in state funding for not meeting per capita service mandates.
Recently, Lambert published a letter on the library system's website thanking supporters for their advocacy and detailing the positives that have come from the "spirited dialogue" between library officials and county commissioners.
"During our conversations, we learned from each other while better appreciating the challenges and opportunities facing county government and our York County Libraries," Lambert wrote. "We are confident that the 2019 county budget review process that includes the library system and all community partners will be thorough and deliberate for all concerned."
Lambert and other library officials appeared at the commissioners' May 30 meeting, where they were presented with their monthly $200,000 check.
"There is a time for advocacy and speaking your values, and there is a time for gratitude, appreciation and collaboration," Lambert wrote. "Now is the time for the latter."
As part of that collaboration, the county agreed to serve as the library's municipal applicant for two state grants.
The library's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program application is for seeking funds for their capital campaign, Lambert said.
Through their capital campaign, the library system is hoping to: refurbish Martin Library, adding an innovation lab for teens and more programming space; build a new library in Hellam Township, where the community's library is currently a double-wide trailer; and expand Kaltreider-Benfer Library in Red Lion.
Drug crisis: The library's Keystone Grant application is seeking funds to remodel Martin Library's bathrooms, which have been closed to the public since June 2017, partly because of drug usage, Lambert said.
He said library staff was often finding needles in the bathroom, and some of them were being flushed and causing plumbing issues.
If the libraries receive the state grant, they will look into several options to reopen the bathrooms in a safer manner, including building stalls or having security guards, Lambert said.
During the same meeting that commissioners voted to reduce the library's funding, they voted to add two probation officers for drug-treatment court, now referred to as heroin/opioid treatment court.
Lambert said the library system is now working out a program that will be aimed at addressing the county's heroin/opioid crisis. The program could take several shapes, Lambert explained, including training librarians to respond to overdoses and offering space for forums.
"We believe libraries can be a catalyst on the prevention side," he said, noting they're hopeful the program they come up with can be repeated in other counties. "The goal is to engage libraries to fight the epidemic in some way."
— Reach David Weissman at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.