The Prince George’s County library system cannot afford more budget cuts, supporters said, describing its services as vital a role as first responders.
“We save lives in the same ways with providing literacy and with providing space for the kids who don’t have anywhere else to go after school,” said Karen Dudley, a circulation specialist at the Bowie branch library.
Supporters and employees of the county’s 19 library branches urged the County Council at a hearing Tuesday to change the county budget proposed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) by eliminating cuts to the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.
The County Council has been conducting a series of public hearings examining different aspects of the proposed $3.2 billion fiscal 2014 county budget. About two dozen people attended the meeting Tuesday.
The library system has ended Sunday service and reduced branch hours in recent years to address budget cuts and is facing possible further cuts as the county attempts to address a $152 million budget deficit.
In the proposed county budget, about $800,000 would be cut from the library system’s current budget of about $25.4 million, according to budget documents. To close the gap, library officials would look at a variety of actions, such as ceasing to buy new DVDs for a year, laying off up to 10 employees and instituting furloughs, said Kathleen Teaze, library system director.
The county budget includes plans for some library facility improvements, such as renovating existing branches with new carpeting and roofs, as well as dedicating $17.5 million to the construction of a 32,000-square-foot Laurel Library.
Eileen Taddonio, a children’s librarian for the past 25 years with the county library system who works at the Bowie branch, said the lack of investment in library services would hinder the county’s effort to spur job creation.
“[Businesses] want to see how the schools are and how the libraries are,” she said of companies considering whether to move to the county.
County Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale said she couldn’t comment on whether the council will make changes since budget discussions are ongoing. She said the council continues to support the library system and, while the council can’t give everyone what they want, it is trying to make everyone somewhat happy.
“The reality is our libraries are needed,” she said. “People don’t have encyclopedias in their home.”
The council is required to pass the budget before the start of the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. The next budget meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 6 at the County Administration Building at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive in Upper Marlboro.