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Library cutting employees, hours
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The Newton County Library System is going to cut 30 percent of its staff by the end of calendar year 2011, a move that will save the system $200,000 during the remainder of fiscal year 2012.

The library board of directors voted Monday to make the cuts, which were necessary because of reduced local and state funding. Library Director Lace Keaton said she has not yet identified which specific positions will be cut, but the final list should be decided upon by the end of the year. The system has 38 total employees, 27 full time and 11 part time.

Library board Chairwoman Lois Upham said most cuts will come from the Covington Branch Library, because that's where the majority of employees are.

“People will likely have to work both branches. We’re going to have to spend personnel like we spend money, maximize their utility to the system,” Upham said, bemoaning the cuts. “The staff has really been good and most people understand.”

The Covington Branch Library’s hours will also be reduced from 44 hours a week currently to 40 hours a week; state standards require at least one library in each system to be open for 40 hours. The Porter Memorial Branch on Ga. Highway 212 is open for 35 hours a week.

“We can’t operate the same number of service hours with less staffing,” Keaton said.

The cuts will be affective Jan. 1.

The library system had hoped for a $2.35 million budget, but cuts left the approved budget at $1.79 million. State funding was cut by 16 percent and local funding was cut by 18 percent, while the library system had the added cost of operating the Porter Memorial Branch for a full year.

The reductions will amount to $400,000 cut during a full fiscal year. The library system does not have any money available this year to purchase new books or materials. Upham said the library was not even renewing subscriptions of existing materials.

“This was not an easy decision, not a decision anyone wants to make, but it was necessary for us to be fiscally responsible to the community and the organization,” Keaton said Thursday. “We certainly hope as things get better, the situation will improve.”

Upham said Keaton was being very sensitive to the staff’s needs and desires while making the most efficient cuts possible. 

“We want people to be aware that there are consequences when the libraries don’t get sufficient funding, unhappy things,” Upham said. “But we’ll continue to do our best."