CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Public Library's Sissonville branch is among the first to feel the consequences of last month's failed school excess levy, which, if passed, would have also financially supported the county's libraries.
Two full-time staff members at the Sissonville library have recently resigned, and because the library can't afford to replace them, the branch's hours will be reduced to 30 hours a week starting in January, Library Director Alan Engelbert said Monday.
More and more library employees are making an exit as the system faces a financial crisis brought on by a February court decision that cut any legal obligation the Kanawha County school board had to help fund it, resulting in the loss of about 40 percent of its operating budget.
A Kanawha County Schools excess levy election, which failed resoundingly in November, would have brought in enough funding from an increased property tax to keep the libraries fully functioning.
Now, a special "restructuring committee" has been formed to help the library decide where to downsize services because of its downsized budget.
The library system started the fiscal year down 20 positions -- which administrators chose not to fill -- and has since seen 17 additional resignations and retirements, according to Engelbert.
"Hours are being reduced because we just don't have enough staff and we can't go out and hire anyone. ... This may very well happen again at another branch or even here at Main. At Main, we may find we have to adjust hours on a particular floor," Engelbert said during a library board meeting on Monday. "Because our staffing is so thin, we may have to adjust hours if people get sick. As saddening as this is, it's just razor thin across the system. Something as ridiculous as getting a cold may affect whether a building stays open or not."