Over the past couple years, the has lost about $1.2 million in state funding. To cope with the cuts, the library reduced its staff size, and instituted wage and hiring freezes.
The downward funding trend looks likely to continue.
Gov. John Kasich's two-year budget proposal, released earlier last week, would continue cutting state public library funding by 5 percent in 2012 and 2013.
Statewide, it could be more than $160 million over the two years.
The state’s Public Library Fund has already decreased by 23 percent during the past two years. In Lakewood, that means the library lost $600,000 per year in revenue — or 15 percent of its total revenue.
“Not only did this fund lose money by being set as a percentage of the state’s overall general revenue, but legislators reduced the percentage as well,” said Lakewood Library Director James Crawford.
He said the library is most-widely used during times of economic instability, making the decision to cut library funding even more baffling.
“As the economy struggles, the demands on public library services increases,” he said. “For example, unemployment compensation services are offered by the State online. Where do unemployed workers who don't have a computer and the Internet go to file these claims? The public library. And it is public libraries who are offering resume preparation and job searching classes.”
What’s also troubling to Crawford, he said, is that the Lakewood Public Library is the most efficient library in Cuyahoga County in terms of total expenses per items circulated at $2.45.
“Lakewood Public Library, which operates at the is the most accessible public library in the state, as we are open more hours per week than any other public library in Ohio,” he said. “We also offer more children’s programs than most if not all other libraries in Ohio.
Other libraries in the state are also feeling the pinch.
In 2009, the Cuyahoga Count Public Library dealt with a $14 million shortfall prompted by state budget cuts by reducing staff, increasing late fines, slashing money used for purchasing books and other materials and closing most branch locations on Sunday.
The Cuyahoga County Library receives about 30 percent of its funding from the state, said spokesman Robert Rua.
What will happen at individual branch locations — the system serves nearly 50 communities and has 28 buildings — is even more fuzzy.
"There are still unanswered questions," Rua said. "For now, we'll see what unfolds.”
Chris Mazzolini contributed to this report.