Closing the book on libraries

Libraries handed ‘untenable’ budget


If budget cuts of 60 to 74 percent are approved, most branches in the Carbon County Library system will be shuttered by July 1. Hours and services at the remaining branches would be slashed under such a scenario, said Bobbie Morgan, Director of the Carbon County Library System Board (CCSLB) at an emergency meeting of the board June 13.

Morgan was told to brace for the deep cuts at a meeting of the Carbon County Commissioners June 6. A month earlier, Morgan had been told by the commissioners to prepare for cuts of 30 percent to the library system, and struggled to make a plan for delivering services under those austerities. Under cuts of twice that or more, Morgan said “This board has been placed in an untenable position – they cannot fiscally keep the branches open.”

“Not with $225,000, you can’t,” replied CCLSB member Tom Callison. “Not even with $335,000 you can’t keep all the branches open,” agreed CCLSB member Joanne Whitson. These two numbers—$225,000 and $335,000—were the two budget scenarios presented to Morgan by the commissioners June 6. Last year, the CCLSB received $618,295 from Carbon County coffers.

Preliminary talks indicated that at the $225,000 funding level, only the Rawlins branch could be operated. If funded at $335,000 per year, there was consensus that the Baggs library should remain open because of its distance from the county seat and, if possible, one further location in Saratoga or Elk Mountain.

Many board members were shocked by the doubling of proposed cuts, and were left scrambling to deal with the eleventh-hour discrepancy.

“I think it’s incumbent on the population here to go to their county commissioners and ask why the library budget is cut so dramatically. It’s not our choice – we’re put in this tough position of explaining why we have to close libraries,” said Callison.

Morgan described a county-level austerity program that was falling unfairly on the CCLSB’s shoulders, and made her case with several comparisons to other departments.

A CCLSB meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the Sinclair Library, and the public is encouraged to attend.


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