Preserving libraries: Cost-cutting is the way to the future, but how?

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Like other states, Pennsylvania has reduced funding for public libraries — in its case by 34 percent since 2008. Faced with this dwindling support, libraries often seek to reduce costs by expanding their e-book collections, limiting hours of operation or closing branches altogether.

Despite a projected deficit of $7.8 million by 2018, the 45 libraries of Allegheny County are boldly clinging to the printed word by trying to cut costs elsewhere.

In a budget proposal designed to “preserve the unique relationship each library has with its community,” the County-City Library Service Panel has expressly resisted the consolidation of print collections or the closing of library branches. Rather, it seeks to reduce costs through the creation of a single entity responsible for digital and intra-library services throughout the county — leaving the autonomy and character of each library largely intact.

If the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Library Association decide to adopt the proposal, we hope the eventual savings will be meaningful. If not, more sweeping measures will be necessary to sustain local libraries into the future.

In the Internet age, libraries are about more than books and information but also computer access, e-books, job searches and social interaction. For the sake of county residents, these community resources must be kept strong for all the good things they provide.

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