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Budget cuts shorten library hours

Three years of steadily declining budgets is taking a toll on the Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library.

The most recent impact at the Washington branch is a reduction in the days of operation from five days a week to three.

According to the library’s 2010 tax records, the majority of the regional library’s $900,000 budget comes from the communities it serves. The library receives state and federal funding. Financial support is also included in the budgets of Beaufort, Martin and Hyde counties and the municipal budgets of Williamston, Robersonville, Swan Quarter, Washington, Aurora and Bath.

Grants, investments and program services are additional sources of income.

Financial director Hilda Lane said many of the library’s sources of funding have tightened purse strings over the past few years.

Last year, the state’s total aid to libraries was reduced 13 percent ($2 million in all) for the fiscal year ending June 30, said BHM Regional Library Director Susan Benning. She and other North Carolina library directors will lobby for restoration of the funds in Raleigh this Wednesday in what has been dubbed “Library Legislative Day.”

“There will be a rally on Halifax Mall of librarians from counties all over the state,” Benning said.

Each librarian has made an appointment with a state representative to ask for restoration of the funding and statistics on library usage.

Benning also plans to share letters from library patrons that describe how the library has helped them. She said the personal stories would tell politicians far more than any statistics she shares.

“I think libraries are a cornerstone in the community. I think we change people’s lives,” Benning said. “I think that when they (legislators) understand what we do, they’ll understand more than any statistic could ever tell them.”

To include a letter to state legislators, drop off correspondence at the Washington branch of the BHM Regional Library at the old courthouse, 158 N. Market St. For more information, call 946-6401.